Shrinking Our Blind Spots: How Details Make Feedback More Effective

by Jamie Resker | Posted | Total Rewards

Shrinking Our Blind Spots: How Details Make Feedback More Effective

When we use the term "blind spot" we usually mean a weakness unknown to an individual but noticed by others. But blind spots can also be things we do well — strengths, aptitude and capabilities seen and experienced by others yet unknown to ourselves.

Knowing exactly what we've done that has worked, resonated and is appreciated by others can help us more clearly identify and build upon our strengths and confidence.

To overcome our blind spots, we need to receive and give good quality positive insight. Yet most positive feedback is too vague (or absent altogether). While a general comment like, "That was a great presentation" is nice it's not particularly useful.

The very best way to shrink our blind spots and the blind-spots of others is to give and ask for more granular information.

Three essentials for giving positive feedback

If you're in the position of giving someone positive feedback, include the following:

1. A general statement

2. A specific example

3. The positive impact

Example 1:

A general statement

You're a great team player.

A specific example

When we received the defective code in the vendor's software component you took the initiative to learn how to rewrite the code.

The positive impact

If we had sent this back to the vendor there would have been a two week delay. Instead we delivered two days early.

Example 2:

A general statement

That was a great presentation.

A specific example

I liked how most of your slides were pictures and not words.

The positive impact

Seeing and remembering the pictures helped me retain the key points and kept me interested.

As a rule of thumb, avoid hollow statements like, "great job", "keep doing what you're doing", etc. Throw in an example of what you liked and say why it mattered (the positive impact).

What to do when you receive general positive feedback

I once spent 4 hours writing my self-review and the most my boss could muster was "Just keep up the good work". Not helpful. All I could think to say was "Thanks, I will." In hindsight I should have asked, "What's one thing I'm doing that's working and that I should continue to do?"

How often do we hear things like, "That was a great presentation" or "You were great on that call" or "This report was really helpful"? These opportunities are ripe for "in the moment just in time feedback". All you have to do is ask. Here's an example:

Let's say you've just concluded a phone call with a client. Your colleague who was listening in says,

"I like how you handled the client's concerns".

You obviously said something that brought your colleague to this conclusion. Your follow-up question should be:

"What was it that I said that helped smooth things over?"

You'll likely notice your colleague pause as she reflects on the specific language or approach you used during the call. These opportunities to learn what we did well present a treasure trove of meaningful information.

By asking for specific feedback you get granular information.

Why positive feedback is important

We usually don't get or give enough insight when acknowledging the good work, efforts and behavior of others. This applies at work, at home and in life.

Case in point: when you're driving in traffic and allow someone to cut in front of you, what do you expect from the other driver? A wave. A wave acknowledges the courtesy you've shown for the other driver. When the wave never materializes what's your reaction? A few choice words and maybe a hand gesture or two!

Think about that next time you see someone do something good. Everyone needs the "wave" — at work, at home and in life.

Move Beyond the vague for greater impact when giving or receiving feedback

Avoid giving and being the recipient of vague comments like "great job", "keep up the good work", "awesome presentation" etc. When recognizing good work include a specific example about what you liked and the positive impact. When receiving vague but positive feedback casually ask about what worked.

The next time you hear something like, "That was a great presentation!”, rather than just replying “Thanks”, ask "What did you like about it?” 

Employee Feedback Templates

This template helps you give truly helpful and effective feedback.


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Employee Feedback Templates

This template helps you give truly helpful and effective feedback.


Download Now


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