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ATD Blog

Feedback Fix: Ditch the Judgement, Get Noticing, and Build Trust

Thursday, June 20, 2019

We’re starting a movement to fix feedback. If you’re ready to move beyond a world where feedback hurts more than it helps, where feedback power rests only with those who have titles and positions, where feedback is too often loaded with biases, labels, and innuendo—then join us!

In our better-feedback world, feedback inspires, enlightens, empowers, lifts, and challenges us to be our better selves today, tomorrow, next week, and next year. It helps us build from our strengths and learn every day from those around us.

For these outcomes to be possible, feedback must run on the rails of trust. To benefit from feedback that comes your way (sought or not), you need to trust the messenger and the message. Enter fairness! If we think the message or messenger isn’t fair, trust is broken. No trust equals no connection, and little to no value is captured from the feedback exchange no matter how well-intentioned.

Knowing that trust is vital for feedback to work, it’s unsurprising that our first feedback fix is about improving our ability to operate under fairness, no matter what role we’re playing in the exchange. Given that we’re all messy humans full of biases and bad habits we’ve picked up along the way, that’s a tall task; so how do we do it? By leaning heavily on what we’ve witnessed and noticed.

Here are three ideas and supporting suggestions to help you operate with greater fairness and build trust:


1. Start noticing and ask to be noticed by others.

  • When you see someone drive value, bring a new perspective, or advance a deliverable in a notable way, share what you witnessed. Telling people, “I see you and the impact you’re having” is a powerful way to build trust and fuel continued positive action.
  • Ready to try something new? Go for it! Before you get started, ask others to notice how it goes. Check in along the way to hear what they noticed and what may help you the next time around.
  • In each of these situations, encourage that noticing open a conversation. Learn and explore together.

2. Stick to the facts.

  • Whether seeking or extending feedback, rely on firsthand knowledge. Seek or share what was observed. Avoid hearsay, rumors, and assumptions.
  • Steer clear of judgment. Instead, share clear and factual insights.
  • Stick to the here-and-now. Don’t dredge up stories of days gone by.

3. Check your intent.

  • If you’re feeling compelled to extend feedback to someone in your ecosystem, check your intent. Is your intention to help them grow or improve or do you have something to prove?
  • Whether seeking or extending feedback, take a moment to consider your mindset. Are you coming to the conversation with an open mind and the belief that growth and trust are the most likely outcomes?

Bottom line: If we follow these tips and simply bring what we’re noticing into an open conversation without judgment or evaluation, amazing things can happen and trust will grow. That’s feedback worth sharing.

About the Author

Tamra Chandler is founder and CEO of PeopleFirm LLC, one of Forbes 2018 "America's Best Management Consulting Firms." Tamra spent her 30-year career developing effective ways for people and organizations to perform at their peak. She is a nationally-recognized thought leader and speaker and author of How Performance Management Is Killing Performance – and What to Do About It. Her latest book, Feedback (And Other Dirty Words), was published June 2019.

Tamra started PeopleFirm with a vision to deliver measurable, meaningful results using people-centered solutions. PeopleFirm has become a go-to partner in its field and consistently earns local and national recognition as a top place to work.

Previously, Tamra was managing partner for Arthur Andersen's PNW Business Consulting practice, and executive in charge of People and Solutions at Hitachi Consulting. She holds a BS in Electrical Engineering from Montana State University and a MBA from the University of Washington.

1 Comment
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To the editor: The grammar and spelling in the title need work. The article is good and well written. The title, "Feedback Fix: Ditch the Judgement, Get Noticing, and Build Trust," might be better titled, "Feedback Fix: Ditch the Judgment, Start to Notice, and Build Trust." I'm a word nerd for intent is to help someone improve. I'm also open to hearing another grammarian's point of view.
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