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Making Feedback Useful

TIGNUM Thoughts

August 22nd, 2020
By Brian Wade

We get a lot of questions from our clients around the topic of growth mindset and how to develop it. A growth mindset is a must-have for success and is the product of many of our other Performance Mindset skills such as curiosity, vulnerability, openness, challenging bias, and courage. Carol Dweck coined the terms “fixed mindset” and “growth mindset” in her book Mindset. She states that a fixed mindset makes you believe that, regarding your ability, you either have it or you don’t. This essentially makes it a genetic trait. Conversely, a growth mindset centers around the idea that anyone can improve at anything through practice and effort. It is a foundational component for mental agility, energy multiplication, adaptability, and collaboration. So how do you develop this growth mindset? One proven strategy is to lean in and embrace the process of feedback.

Feedback can be tough. It can be tough to receive, and also tough to give. We don’t like to hear that we did something wrong or poorly, and we don’t want to hurt others by telling them as much. But feedback is necessary, and especially so in the pursuit of Sustainable High Impact. If we are to grow and develop ourselves or our teams to be high impacters, then we have to be able to learn quickly and make changes along the way. But here's the caveat. Having the right mindset matters when receiving feedback.

When we have a fixed mindset toward a task or project, we (consciously or not) avoid feedback. One of the defining behaviors of this mindset is that, when given feedback, fixed mindset thinkers tend to ignore it. They believe they are above the criticism or that they can’t improve anyway. In fact, there have been brain scan studies that have shown that when these individuals were presented with information that could help them learn and improve, their brains shut down - ignoring the feedback completely. This inability to even “hear” feedback obviously inhibits or even blocks learning from occurring.

When we have a growth mindset, we desire feedback because we know that in order to get better, we have to learn from our mistakes. In those same studies about brain activity and feedback (mentioned above), the brains of those individuals with a growth mindset toward the same task stayed engaged during the feedback session. They actively listened and downloaded the information. This way of approaching feedback leads to great learning and maximizes the potential for improvement.

A common misconception is that one has to have a growth mindset first, and then they are able to receive feedback more effectively. In reality, we can use the process of feedback to create a growth mindset. Feedback is something that we are all going to encounter in our future, so it’s essentially a constant. Knowing this, let’s start looking forward to feedback, embracing the process of it (including the tough parts), and begin to view it as a way to develop a growth mindset and move toward Sustainable High Impact.

So how can we get better at receiving feedback so we can develop a growth mindset? One strategy is to review your ToBeVision and add a statement around having a growth mindset or embracing feedback. At TIGNUM, we know that when clients read their ToBeVision on a daily basis, their behaviors begin to change in order to fulfill this vision of themselves. Another strategy is to reframe the way you think or talk about feedback. We often go into a feedback session with thoughts of apprehension. Remind yourself that it is necessary and useful. Tell yourself that you need this feedback so you can learn and grow. Once you’ve received the feedback, spend some time and create an action plan for it. Write out when and where you’ll have the next opportunity for feedback and how you’ll use it to perform differently the next time. Doing this really helps solidify the learning aspect of feedback and makes it a growth-focused process.

Lastly, if you’re the one delivering the feedback, make sure you echo the same language as above. Create an environment for a growth mindset, so that others are hopefully open to hearing what you have to say. Reassure the receiver that the feedback is necessary and will provide them with great information to get better. Remind them that you’re trying to help them learn and improve. Frame the feedback around specific actions or strategies that they can control, adjust, or improve. Finally, remember to give feedback on what they did well, too. This will help avoid viewing feedback as bad news, but, instead, see it as something useful and productive, promoting their growth mindset.

In the end, feedback is still tough and uncomfortable, but it’s necessary and incredibly powerful in helping to create a growth mindset. You’ll be able to learn more about yourself, your teams, your processes, and your behaviors. Through this learning, you’ll be able to unlock new strategies and ideas to continue to improve and continue down the path toward becoming a Sustainable High Impacter.

As always, we'd love to know what you think.

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