New Book Release Authored by Andersen Alumnus Tamara Chandler: Feedback (and Other Dirty Words): Why We Fear It, How to Fix It

By M. Tamra Chandler , Andersen Alumnus, is the founder and CEO of PeopleFirm LLC, one of Forbes Magazine’s 2018 “America’s Best Management Consulting Firms” and the author of How Performance Management is Killing Performance – and What to Do About It.

It’s time we redeem feedback. Why? Because feedback has a branding problem — a negative reputation that has been built one lousy experience at a time. Not only have we got feedback wrong, as humans we’re paying a significant price for our feedback missteps and misuse.

When we take a step back and think about feedback’s true intent, we realize that it shouldn’t be a bad thing. If we want to improve, grow, and advance, we need insights that help us do that. When we get it right, feedback lifts us up, helps us understand our strengths, shows us pathways to achieve that next step, and sometimes even changes the course of our lives.

The roots of feedback’s branding problem lie in the way we think about it and experience it. Our misconceptions, bad habits, and defense mechanisms have led us astray. To redeem feedback, we need to examine how we got here and equipped with that understanding make a fresh start on fixing feedback once and for all. Our fix requires a fundamental change, a seismic philosophical shift in our thinking about feedback. To redeem feedback, we need a movement! A movement that starts with you and me.

To get our movement off the ground, we need to take these actions:

1) Embrace a new definition of feedback

2) Anchor our methods in the bedrock ideas of trust, connection, and the three F’s of fairness, focus and frequency

3) Build an army of Seekers, empowered to ask for insights

Here’s our new definition:

Take particular notice of the concept that feedback should have “the sole intention of helping.” If feedback isn’t intended to help individuals or teams thrive and grow, they why offer it or seek it? Equally important is tuning into what’s not in our definition: namely that, in our better feedback future, feedback is not intended for evaluation, blame, or judgment. Helpful feedback inspires us to look forward to a better version of ourselves, our organization, or our team.

To develop individuals and build teams that thrive, grow, and operate at optimum levels of performance, we must start with trust. Trust is built over time through human connections that are kind and supportive and that send a strong message that we’re in this together. Trust isn’t built in a day; there is no shortcut. It’s the product of an ongoing process that is influenced by how we show up in every conversation, decision, and action. If we begin by building trusted connections with those valuable people who see us at our best (and worst) every day, we’ll have a solid foundation for our movement.

We’re launching our movement under the banner of Fairness, Focus, and Frequency. And as we march forward together, we plan to fly these three F’s high and proud:

Fairness – For feedback to work, there must be trust. If a relationship or any given exchange is tainted with a perceived lack of fairness, feedback won’t work, and trust is broken. While most of us have the best intentions to be fair, our human tendency toward bias gets in our way. To operate with fairness, we need to engage without judgment.

Focus – Focus is a big idea delivered in small bites. In our daily lives we already have too much information to process. For feedback to help, we need to keep it focused. If you’re looking for some feedback, make it a focused ask for perspectives on just one thing. If you feel compelled to tell someone they rocked it, tell them the one thing you noticed that set the bar. If there was one thing that someone could do to have a far greater impact, then share what you noticed.

Frequency – The more often we connect, the greater the trust we build. For this reason, frequency is a critical foundation for strong, helpful feedback. Frequency accelerates feedback; while fairness and focus fuel the engine. Frequency improves the quality of our relationships and accelerates our learning; it tells others, “I’m paying attention, and what you do is important and notable.”

When you embrace these three Fs, feedback is light and easy. When feedback is fair, focused, and frequent, trust thrives, learning happens, and everyone involved is freed to take more risks and seek greater growth.

Why do Seekers play the most important role in fixing feedback? The reasons are many. Here are just a few:

  • Seeking is the ultimate trust generator. It demonstrates humility, and that you value the input of others.
  • Seeking helps us build connections with others and nurtures our trusted relationships.
  • When you seek feedback, you’re more likely to act on it.
  • When you’re seeking, you’re in control. You can request the insights you need to grow and advance according to your plan, not someone else’s.

Ready to join the movement? Imagine creating cultures in which feedback flourishes. Imagine a world where we feel safe being authentic and transparent about who we are, and just as open about the work we still need to do to be who we want to be. A world where we let go of the fear and embrace the help others offer us.