Small changes make big differences.

Tuesdays with MOJO/Be a stronger leader

Marjorie Spitz Rento1 Comment

Are you a person who lets something brew and fester, or the direct feedback type?

Early in my career I was often smack down the middle. I would give feedback but beat around the bush for fear of hurting someone’s feelings, which often led to misunderstanding and lack of transparent guidance. Providing direction that clearly communicates what you really mean instead of expecting people to read between the lines is an important and worthy skill. Although good intentioned, the alternative doesn’t help anyone involved. How do you rate yourself on this ability?

At Balance Integration (where I get to do a lot of strategic and fun cultural activation programming), we threw the annual review process out the window and instead instituted an “immediate feedback” protocol. I was resistant at first.

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It’s daunting to purposely and openly ask for regular criticism. However, coupled with consistent positive reinforcement when things go well builds trust and leads to skill development, and both personal and professional growth.

Many experts agree that regular feedback is a very effective way to mentor and course correct in real time. In fact, it was a hot topic at the recent HR conference I attended.

I will share a powerful statement from one of the speakers: “Feedback is your gift and every day is your birthday.” A gift indeed, albeit one that may sting at times. BUT, with possible great benefits.

Immediate feedback allows for:

  • relevant and timely input while the action or behavior is top of mind
  • the recipient to get instant commentary of what he/she did
  • regular and respectful interaction, so problems and annoyances don’t build into monumental issues

Certainly, there can some potential issues with immediate feedback, especially if its new to you:

  • less time to gauge the situation, and form a thoughtful approach to giving criticism
  • heightened emotions which can exasperate a situation

Definitely take this all into consideration when implementing an immediate feedback practice.

It will not flow overnight, and old habits and obstacles can block our ability to use this tool effectively.

For example: I recently had one of those tight days with a full morning to meet approaching deadlines, which quickly got derailed by someone else’s issue. I was frustrated and didn’t feel I could lead a productive feedback conversation. This can especially be true if it’s a client or supervisor, which it was. Taking a beat and circling back is fine, just be sure to ultimately address it as soon as possible.

I will share another example: A senior executive was on an impressive panel at a conference I attended. She was contributing A LOT and also paying close attention when other panelists spoke in order to respond relevantly. However, her facial expression didn’t reflect that, and it looked like she was frowning. Afterwards she asked for feedback and I told her all the things I think went well and then said, “I know it wasn’t intentional, but you looked like you had a frown on your face when others were speaking, which can be interpreted as being in disagreement or critical. I suggest you try to smile a bit when others are talking.” She-had-no-idea-she-was-frowning, and was immensely grateful for that valuable feedback, given she speaks at events frequently.

So, the next time someone does something impressive, tell him/her and explain why to raise awareness of their strengths. Concurrently, give gentle and constructive criticism. As a result, you’ll provide real-time value support which I expect will yield improved performance and maximized potential.

I’m a believer!

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With that in mind, how am I doing? Feel free to share whether you think this weekly blog covers topics you value, and subjects you’d like to learn more about. Do you usually immediately delete it, or read it through to the end, and are there ones you particularly enjoyed (or not)? Don’t be afraid to be critical, because hey, I’m asking!  Who can you ask for feedback from? Think of it as a gift.

Responsively yours,

Marjorie, Chief MOJO Maker™

P.S. The next Montauk Retreat is September 14-16th. Email me for details!