The ability to understand and share the feelings of another.
Even presidents of organizations need improvement at times. And even presidents can get their feelings hurt at times. Because even presidents are human.
Recently, I had to “face the music” that there are certain areas I need to focus on and develop more. My human nature went through the natural cycle of defensiveness, hurt pride, insecurity, to an eventual understanding of what I learned and what I need to do to move forward.
I’m glad this happened to me. And I hope it happens to you, too.
Why? Because unless we experience what it FEELS like to be corrected, to be adjusted or tweaked in our development, we cannot truly understand how it feels when we try to impart the same wisdom to others.
Empathy. People don’t care what you have to say until they know YOU care about what THEY have to say.
With respect to performance reviews, we always recommend that managers be reviewed before they review their direct reports. The goal is for the manager to feel what the employee feels before doling out their feedback.
Our tone seems to change when we’ve walked a mile in someone’s shoes.
When we’ve experienced being on the other end of someone that expects you to be a “mind-reader,” or when we’ve felt what it feels like to be corrected, we are better able to empathize and adjust our own delivery of critique.
Hopefully, we don’t forget this feeling and are sensitive to receiving feedback from our direct reports themselves.
One of our favorites books at Performance Culture is Thanks for the Feedback: the science and art of receiving feedback well, even when it is off base, unfair, poorly delivered, and frankly, you’re not in the mood, by Douglas Stone and Sheila Heen.
The gist of the book is the key to handling feedback is in the hands of the receiver, not the giver. No matter how awful the delivery of the feedback is, we all have a choice to either let it send us down a perilous spiral, or dig through all the gunk until we can find the one golden nugget that just may be hidden in there somewhere. This is a challenging thing to do.
And while I love this concept, and have added this to my list of personal development initiatives for 2016, I still wonder how much faster organizations would grow if the deliverer did indeed learn a few things along the way as well.
In our “beat on the street” interview, I asked people in downtown Wilmington, NC about their experiences with bad bosses. What you don’t see in the edited version is the overwhelming consistent answer of why they felt their boss was so bad – because the boss “thought they knew what was best, and never really listened to us.”
How quickly we tend to forget what we’ve felt and experienced when the shoe is on the other foot.
My hope for you is that you are challenged, yet encouraged, in your role of both giver and receiver of feedback. This is one of life’s most difficult tasks we must all participate in – whether as an employee, manager, spouse, friend, or family member. The good news is that it can become easier with practice.
So let us remember the person sitting across from us is just that – a person – with imperfections, strengths, weaknesses, hopes, dreams, sadness, and joy. They are valuable, and they deserve our empathy.