If feedback is a gift, then why is it so hard to receive?


My company has a feedback tool which gives me the ability to provide or request feedback from others. I can provide feedback free form or request from a set of stock questions, such as:

  • What am I doing well?

  • What should I stop doing?

I have to admit, I was taken aback the first time I received a request to provide feedback from a coworker after a project we completed together. I had not heard of the feedback system yet and was immediately filled with anxiety. Most places I’ve worked previously saved their feedback for annual reviews, if that even happened or if feedback on others was solicited it was usually to build a case for their demise. No thank you, I don’t want a part in that!

I quickly closed out of the email and avoided it. Avoided the opportunity to tell the person what an amazing job they did. Avoided the “What should I stop doing?” question because I honestly couldn’t think of anything.

Then I learned a little more about the system. I was told we should ask for feedback often from our team members because it helps with annual reviews. Hello stressed out. Now I’m in constant fear of my feedback. I want to grow but I definitely don’t want it to hold back my career. All my bad qualities raced through my head, “You’re too quiet.” “You don’t speak up enough in meetings.” “You’re not smiling enough.” “You learn slower than the rest of the team.”

I was paralyzed by feedback I’ve never received, only the thoughts in my own head.

Real-time feedback and coaching promotes learning. When feedback is connected to compensation, feedback is muted, distorted, and given less frequently.

Jennifer Hyman

My First Feedback

I received my first piece of feedback while I was on vacation. The automated email flashed on my phone as I explored an antique store in Waco, Texas. It was an amazing day! I spent the morning at Magnolia Table and the afternoon shopping at Magnolia Market where Chip Gaines of Fixer Upper paid for my entire purchase! Then the email, instant dread filled my body. I knew it had to be bad. I could feel my body sink to the floor.

My whole demeanor changed and I began shake. “Ugh!” I thought. i knew I promised this person I’d send them a summary email when I landed and I didn’t do it. It had to be what the feedback was about. I blew it. I let him down. I had let the team down. I decided to not look at the feedback until I got back to the office the next week. Ya know what? It haunted me over my vacation. I should have just looked at it. If it was about the email, bam punch in the face, it stings a little lesson learned.

Instead, I waited until I got back to the office to read a wonderful compliment about my great work on our project. Had I just read the feedback, it would have been the icing on my already awesome day!

Beers with the Bosses

Since I enter the tech field, my bosses generally never talked to me. As long as I did my work, we’d chat at an occasional one-on-one, if it wasn’t blown off, or a review. I wouldn’t say my bosses were ever swinging by to chat me up or whatever. Needless to say, if it wasn’t regularly scheduled programming, if boss wanted to talk to me I was usually in trouble for something, and it was probably lame.

Fast forward to my current company, the one I’ve been talking about with the feedback system. The three leaders of our team invited my out for beers after work. I accepted the invitation but my brain started in again. I must have really messed up something for them to have to take me out and talk to me. I search my brain but can’t come up with anything. I start to worry more.

My boss, my ex-boss and I head to the bar. Their boss the Managing Director is caught in a meeting and will join later. I order I cider and notice I shake as I attempt to drink it. We casually talk about our upcoming weekends. The pressure builds in my chest. My boss texts his boss for an ETA. Ah, he must have to wait for him before they address the issue.

Finally, the Managing Director arrives, sits down, and starts talking about the meeting he was in. We talk about our families and dogs and sports all the while I’m shake within the center of my body and try to control it. I just want to scream, “Tell me what the heck I did wrong!”

Each of them finishes their drinks, closes out the tab and we all wish each other a nice weekend. And just like that they’re gone. I’m left walking to the train station bewildered. I hadn’t done anything wrong, they just wanted to grab a drink with me. Once again, I ruined the present experience because I was worried about the feedback I thought I would receive.

The Future is Feedback

Feedback is truly a gift. Sometimes it does feel like a punch in the face. Other times, it clicks and propels you forward. My companies feedback system isn’t a perfect system. Since, the each feedback transaction sends a copy to the person’s boss it becomes more of a “Kudos Collection” than anything. Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE my kudos but there’s definitely the fear of the permanent record.

I want to grow and develop my skills. I think instead of the question, “What should I stop doing?” we should be able to put in our own questions for growth, for example:

  • I want to be a better public speaker, do you see areas where I can improve?

  • I want to be a better facilitator, what’s holding me back?

  • I want to be an Architect, what skillsets do I need?

I have always thrived on actionable steps, plans and goals to get the next steps. Feedback should be a tool to help us realize our best selves.

If you found this helpful, I’d love it if you’d like it and share it with your network!

Kelli Mohr

5 Lessons Business Leaders Can Learn from the Seattle Seahawks

As the Seattle Seahawks complete their NFL season, with their first Super Bowl win in franchise history, there are five lessons business leaders can learn from their memorable season.

#1 Appreciate Your Customer

Today was the Seattle Seahawks Super Bowl 48 victory parade in Seattle, Washington.  Nearly 700,000 fans showed up in the streets, at CenturyLink Field and at Safeco Field to participate in the event.  These fans are known as the 12th Man.  In 1984, the Seahawks retired number 12 in honor of their fans who are consistently the loudest fans in the NFL.  In 2003, the 12th Man Flag was introduced and is now raised before every home game for the fans and for the home field advantage the 12th man gives the Seahawks.

The relationship between the Seahawks and the fans is based on continued love and appreciation.  After the Super Bowl win, coach Pete Carroll told the crowd, “We take this trophy back, and everybody knows we take this trophy back to the 12th man.”  This relationship probably explains the estimated 3-1 Seahawks to Broncos fan ratio at the Super Bowl according to Yahoo! sports.  During the victory parade today, players like Golden Tate and Sidney Rice recorded the crowd while they passed through downtown Seattle as the fans snapped pictures of them.

Appreciate your customers who support and believe in your product or service.  Customers can become an advocate for you.  If your customers feel appreciated and like what you do, they will tell their friends or followers to use your product or service.  If someone’s friend recommends you they are more likely to use yours over another.  These recommendations become free marketing for your company. 

#2 Grow New Leadership within your Organization

Pete Carroll is an amazing coach.  He inspires, forgives, defends, and has a great attitude.  What is unique about Pete Carroll is he trusts his team enough to create leaders among his players.  These leaders, like Russell Wilson and Richard Sherman, in turn coach and inspire their teammates.  

Within the Seahawks organization it’s not about who makes the most money, it’s about finding and molding the players who will inspire other players as well as the fans.  Not only are Wilson and Sherman leaders on the field, they are also leaders in the community.  

In business, it’s important to discover and grow your talent for leadership positions.  Leadership development brings new perspectives to your business from people who are involved with the day to day work.  New perspectives help innovate products and services.  If you are currently a leader, continue to grow your skills and search for new challenges for leadership outside of your organization.

#3 Believe

When it came to the Seahawks 2012 draft picks, Donald Wood of the Bleacher Report gave them a grade of F and stated, “Pete Carroll is proving why he didn’t make it in the NFL the first time.”  He also, commented that Russell Wilson “was by far the worst move of the draft.”  

Two years after that draft, Russell Wilson told a story on the Late Show with David Letterman where his dad asked him years ago, “Why not you, Russ? Why not you?”  Wilson returned to his team and asked, “Why not us? Why can’t we be the Super Bowl Champions in Super Bowl 48?  We have the players, we have the coaching staff, we have the best fans in the world. Let’s go get it! And that was our mindset.”

When you offer a product or a service the most important thing is believe in it whole-heartedly.  Doubt and fear are the killers of creativity and success.  Know what you want to achieve and pick yourself to create it or change it!     

#4 Concentrate on Small Goals

Throughout the 2013-2014 season the Seahawks concentrated on one game at a time.  They treated every game like it was their biggest game with a “1-0” mentality after each win.  The team held onto this small goal during their 13-3 regular season.     

The big picture and where you want to be in the future can overwhelm you.  You know your goal, the next step is to break it down into small manageable pieces.  Work on each piece and celebrate your small victories as you move toward your goal.  Eventually, you will fail on one of those pieces, that’s okay.  Use the failure as a lesson and apply it to the next piece.  Before you know it, you will reach your goal!  No job is too big if you break it into enough pieces. 

#5 Commit 

According to Pete Carroll, “The “I’M IN” sign is a physical affirmation of an internal commitment to “tap in” and compete to be your best you.  Players and coaches tap in when they’re going to work on the game field, on the practice field or in the weight room to symbolize that they’re setting all distractions aside and focusing solely on the opportunity in front of them to perform and compete.”

You and your employees must commit to the product or service you provide 100%.  Employees who don’t believe or commit slow the forward progress of your product or service.  These employees may cause unnecessary drama, problems or excuses for why your product or service will not work.  Their negativity destroys morale, demotivates others, and creates distrust within your company.  When everyone is committed to and excited about a common goal there is a feeling of camaraderie that can inspire your team more than money.

Originally published February 5, 2014 on Tumblr.