Mirror mirror on the wall….

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The wicked witch in one of those children’s stories constantly asked – mirror mirror on the wall, who’s the fairest of them all. Day after day she got the feedback she sought. One day out of the blue the mirror let her know that things had changed. No longer was she the fairest of them all. There was one more beautiful than she. She went into a rage and set off to wreak havoc. As you do, on hearing unwelcome news.

Every day we have the opportunity to learn what others think about what we do that works or doesn’t work for them. Asking for feedback creates the chance to find out, the chance to feel affirmed in what is working and the chance to do something about the things that aren’t. Yet for most it feels so hard to ask and/or receive and for others so hard to give.

Yet if we start from the mindset of wanting others to be successful, to be more effective, why wouldn’t we want to give them the opportunity to learn what else they might do or other more effective ways they could do what they are doing now. Why wouldn’t we also want them to hear what they get so right and why it is that it works so well? If we want to be successful why wouldn’t we seek out people to show us their perspective of us and how we do things.

I once went to a leaving party at work. Flowers, gifts, speeches, fond farewells and thanks for all those many long years of service talking about what a great contribution she had made. The leaving employee beamed from ear to ear. Rightly so hearing what she heard. No sooner was it done than the manager turned to me and said “Thank goodness she is gone at last. What a nightmare she’s been” . Such a complete disconnect. The person left feeling like she had been a valued contributing employee and her boss felt she was well shot of her, a poor employee. This caring manager, someone who prided herself on her support of her team, a people person, had failed to help this employee be more than she was. Giving feedback on what could change, be done differently felt just too hard, too uncaring, threatening good relationships would be how she saw things, this manager. So topsy turvey. I guess my perspective is very different. If you care, you give someone opportunities to succeed and feedback has a key part to play in that. It’s not allowing that to happen that’s uncaring. Not letting others be more.

Have I always felt like this? Far from it. It’s been a journey for me to come to seeking, welcoming and giving feedback, to seeing it as invaluable and essential to my development. Time was when I just wanted the mirror to either say nothing, just be a mirror keeping it’s opinion to itself or if speaking was a must to just say indeed you are the fairest of them all. Thanks though to all sorts of people over the years I’ve learnt so much and been able to support others to grow too. And there’s still so much to learn and so many to learn from. Still a work in progress. Feedback – bring it on.

So what do you think?

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10 thoughts on “Mirror mirror on the wall….”

  1. Very interesting look at feedback. Unfortunately a good number of us, and I will include myself are like the manager you mentioned. We often don’t tell people what we really feel about because we fear the prospect of a negative confrontation. How better the world would be if we could all be open and honest with each other in a constructive and empowering way.

  2. The trick is in providing constructive criticism without making the person feel unworthy or stupid. My hackles are already up with someone posting on the Zero to Hero forum who seems to delight in being acerbic, the point of the exercise is to help someone improve, not to make yourself feel superior. I think that insincere positive feedback demeans both parties. I enjoyed reading your thoughtful piece.

    1. Ah yes I couldn’t agree more. I think it’s all about checking your intention first. Are you giving feedback because you genuinely want them to be successful or to show how superior you are! Being the other end of it you can feel the difference plain as day.
      Thanks for your response.

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