self improvement

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

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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

Uber Games - The Pizza Rides Alone

Last night my friends and I checked out the new Optimism Brewing Company in Capital Hill neighborhood of Seattle. While we enjoyed our beers "Cheer", "Moxie", "Yellow", and "Black" we realized we needed food, stat.  

Optimism usually has a food truck but on this night they ran out of food early.  My friends and I were faced with the decisions, what to eat and how to get it to the brewery.  After a brief discussion, we decided on pizza.

We called Pagliacci Pizza to find the delivery time was 50 minutes to an hour.  It was too long of a wait for my post CrossFit workout friends' appetites.  If we did carryout the pizza would be ready in 20 minutes.  We figured out whose car was closest to do the pick up but he was hesitant to lose his good parking spot in the busy area.  

I suggested we order an Uber and set the pick up spot at Pagliacci and have the driver deliver the pizza to us.  After a minute of laughs, we started to realize the brilliance of the plan.  We decided to try it out and see what happens.  We scheduled the Uber and when the driver arrived my friend gave him a call.

Uber driver, "Yeah, hi.  I'm outside Pagliacci."

My friend, "Great. This might sound a little weird but there are two prepaid pizzas inside under the name so-and-so.  Would you mind picking those up and bringing them to us?"

Uber driver, "Okay, I'm walking in now... I'm grabbing your pizzas.... I'm on the way."

We watched our pizzas make move towards us on Uber's map.  In a total of 30 minutes, we had dinner delivered to us (faster than the delivery time), no one had to drive after one or two beers, and the Uber driver definitely received a five star review (we wish we could give him 10 stars).

The moral of this story is you can't get what you want if you don't ask for it.  We could have easily assumed the Uber driver would not accept our mission and got the pizza ourselves, but there was no harm in trying to ask him first.  We got the results we wanted, and more often than not you'll find people who are willing to help.  As another friend pointed out last night, 

"You miss 100% of the shots you don't take." ~ Wayne Gretzky

Have you asked for something out of the norm and got the results you wanted?  I'd like to hear about it in the comments below.  If you liked this article, please share it with your friends.

 

How to Create a Positive Mindset

I recently spoke at a Ladies in Seattle Tech (LiST) meet up.  The theme of the evening was Career Advice for My 22 Year Old Self.  Naturally, as a Recovering Perfectionist, my advice was "Don't be so hard on yourself."

Everyday we experience thousands of thoughts.  Some are so tiny we hardly even notice them.  Like the steps we take to get to work.  Turn right here, stop now, oh man that's a good song, I better crank it up!

The thoughts that hold us back from being the people that we are supposed to be are our negative ones.  Thoughts like:

  • I don't know enough to deserve a raise.
  • I'm not smart enough.
  • I don't have any good ideas.
  • I'm a fraud.

I've had many of these types of thoughts over the years.  The were hindering my ability to grow and play bigger. So I hired a coach and he had me do this exercise where I wrote down all of my thoughts over a 2 week time period.  I realized most of my thoughts were the same everyday.  I was stuck in a negative thought loop and I needed out.

We categorized my thoughts into themes and I rewrote them into positive stories to tell myself.  My new stories looked like this:

  • I know my stuff and I deserve a raise.
  • I'm smart and I'm a leader in my field.
  • I have great ideas and i contribute to my team.
  • I'm learning new skills things and building my skills.

A much better way to think about my life and change my path.  With these new stories I arm myself with positive thoughts and change my mindset.  Now when my fearful, old, negative thoughts pop in my head, I tell myself my new story and shut it down immediately.

It's an ongoing process I work at everyday but I'm thankful I have the tools to work through what used to seem like hopeless situations.  If I cannot use a story to change an obsessive negative thought that's bothering me, I know it is time for me to get creative and start making something.  Whether it is writing, cooking, coding, or painting, sharing with the world is enough to calm my inner dialog.

I hope this has been helpful and you will start writing your own stories for success.  If you have any questions or stories you'd like to share, I'd love to hear about them in the comments below.

Once you replace negative thoughts with positive ones, you’ll start having positive results.
— Willie Nelson