Ouch, That Helps: How to Handle Feedback

Jan 27, 2020

Encouraging Feedback as a means of Team Building

Ahhh… Feedback. It gets a bad rep, doesn’t it? People do not typically view receiving feedback as a satisfying experience. When you are trying to bond with your team and can’t decide what to do, your go-to suggestion is not, “how about we all sit in a circle and give each other feedback? That sounds like so much fun!” 


But what if we began to realize that sometimes the only thing standing in between the team that we are and the team that we desire to be, is ourselves? What if we did not try to immediately write off constructive criticism, but we welcomed it… or even intentionally asked for it? Creating a culture that encourages open and honest feedback from all team members helps create a transformative, open, and tight-knit team. 


But how can we begin to motivate this kind of response in our team? It starts with understanding that feedback can be hurtful, but it is incredibly helpful. Instead of reverting to defensiveness, we can simply admit that the feedback was not “music to our ears,” but it was beneficial for what we are hoping to achieve. I recently heard a friend of mine say, “Ouch, that helps.” What if we encouraged our teams to utilize this mantra as our response to truly constructive criticism? Do you want to establish a team with authentic connections? That begins with being real. Establish a standard of honesty, even if it is not easy to hear. Frame your feedback in a way that you would personally receive well. Your constructive criticism should focus on one thing at a time, that way the feedback is not overwhelming. Balance your comment in a way that keeps the other person’s feelings in mind. Generally, the best way to do this is to finish your feedback with encouragement or by letting the person know what they excel at!


Secondly, don’t wait for someone to approach you with a comment. If all of your team members, including yourself, are regularly in the habit of asking for feedback and are willing to accept comments other than praise, then your team will flourish with new and innovative possibilities! Often our assumption that we are doing everything perfectly is wrong, but people will not jump to speak up against us. If each member of your team is in a routine of humbly asking for feedback, then they will be more likely to receive comments from one another. 


When Elevate was founded, we immediately decided that our process would start with the ability to listen. It is important to keep two things in mind: 

1. Hearing and Listening are two different things. 


Hearing is simply perceiving sounds. Listening is giving your attention to that sound. As a team-building exercise, encourage your team members to actively give full attention to one another when they are speaking. It is honorable to give your teammate the floor and genuinely value what they are telling you. 


2. Reacting and responding are two different things. 


Reacting is typically quick and instinctual. Responding requires one to think through their reply. Generally, a response develops into a discussion, but a reaction is frequently a defensive retort that cuts off meaningful conversation. As a team-building exercise, persuade your team members to not be so quick to reply, but to think through a helpful response. 

Who can you intentionally ask for feedback from this week? At Elevate, we can confidently say we will be trying to respond with, “Ouch, that helps” this year as we focus on creating relationships that mutually add value to both parties

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