Sometimes Feedback is a Bitter Pill to Swallow

Author: Ron Hiller l  Published Date: 7/2014


Avoiding unpleasant feedback is one of those paradoxical quirks of human nature. As rational human beings we instinctively know that we aren’t perfect although throughout our early life we have been taught and encouraged to strive for perfection, or ‘be the best we can be’.

The Early Days
During our youth we eagerly absorbed and embraced the endless suggestions and advice of the little league coach, teachers, and parents. As our childhood gave way to adolescence which morphed into adulthood advice from others became a bitter pill to swallow and the steady stream of feedback soon dried up.

The Emperor's New Clothes
The graduation, followed by a new job that blossomed into a new career validated us and our formula for success. Like the emperor in his new clothes we believed that we were as close to perfection as we were going to get. We just had to keep doing what got us here and life would be good. 


(Read More Starts Here)

Hindsight is 20-20

I know of no one that can’t look back over their life and say that they wouldn’t have done some things differently if given another chance as a daughter, son, student, spouse or parent, or as a young manager for that matter. Yet in our current work a day professional world we like to believe that we are beyond reproach.

I Must Be Doing Something Right

We surmise that we have performed as requested and produced results that opened doors for more responsibility. “I must be doing something right or they wouldn’t keep me around”. As the years tick by we fall into a familiar and comfortable pattern of going about our role, buoyed up by promotions, merit increases, bonuses, and more responsibility; these are seen as our badges of success.

Oddly enough the higher we rise in an organization the more insulated we become from candid feedback that might save us from ourselves, making us more likely to mistakenly believe that we really have achieved perfection.
Finish Lines Belong to Races

Finish lines belong to races and not to life’s challenges and certainly not to the special challenge of leadership.  You are never through growing as a leader. Change is the only constant and feedback is a practical and efficient compass to help you stay on course.

The Vagaries of Change

Sometimes change is subtle and other times it's obvious. Sometimes it's welcomed and other times it’s an intrusion. A company merger, new technologies, downsizing, new regulations, increased competition and reorganizations are some game changing events that most of us could live without. Whatever its cadence or type, change tests a leader’s metal.

Adjusting Our Sails

When the wind changes direction we must be able to adjust our sails to stay on course and for some business leaders that may mean adjusting their leadership style.  Sometimes just a small change in a leader’s behavior can have a major up-tick in the productivity of their team.

Don't Shoot the Messenger

Understanding what behaviors a leader needs to change is not always clear, and even if it were as plain as the proverbial nose on your face, no one wants to be the messenger. We all know what happens to messengers bearing less than favorable news. That is precisely why 360 Feedback has gained increased popularity across all industries and lines of business especially during these demanding times.

The Problem with Most 360 Feedback

Assuming that an organization has a high trust level amongst employees and managers and that a 360 isn’t being used explicitly for promotion or compensation decisions; its potential for helping people to connect with their strengths as well as their opportunities for improvement is quite startling.

Emboldened Feedback

Raters are emboldened by their anonymity and therefore more likely to give candid feedback. The training department and or coaching consultants are able to personalize the development plan of each participant circumventing a one-size-fits all training approach.

Context Targeted Feedback?

The biggest problem for most 360’s is their inability to customize questions according to the rater’s working relationship with the appraisee. You wouldn’t ask your dentist to assess the cause of your high blood pressure just as you wouldn’t ask your doctor to weigh in on the tooth ache you have experienced recently. Asking highly targeted questions oriented according to the working relationship yields a higher quality of feedback.

Peer Feedback

So when it comes to learning more about your teamwork skills and interpersonal relationship and persuasion skills it makes good sense to ask your peers that work with you in a team setting.

Feedback from the Boss

If you want to gain a deeper understanding about your business skills it makes sense to ask your boss about your planning and organizing, decision making, financial management, and resilience skills and aptitudes.

Feedback from Direct Reports

Only your direct reports can tell you with any authority and clarity how well you handle performance management, team building and motivation, employee empowerment, coaching and mentoring, and information sharing.

Customer Feedback

Customers internal and external are the only people who can provide accurate feedback as to your customer focus, problem solving and decision making, integrity and functional expertise, and negotiation skills.


Feedback is every person's guiding compass that keeps them on course especially during times of change and challenge. Feedback is both valuable and necessary to avoid stagnation and becoming irrelevant in a rapidly changing world. Feedback that is highly targeted and taps the rater’s unique working relationship with the appraisee will always be the most trust worthy, valuable and edifying.

Want to learn more about a Context Targeted 360? Click here



Email Address:

Expert Author Alerts