I was a mental and emotional ball of stress last week because I was mad at my boss. I was frustrated with a few things she was doing, and it was only going to get better if I approached her about it. (I also coach people daily on how to approach their respective supervisors to provide them feedback… both constructive and positive.) It was imperative that I talk to her to repair our work relationship while proving that I “walked the talk.” I also knew how personally and emotionally my boss sometimes receives feedback. She is an extremely passionate and caring person, but she is also very sensitive to any sort of correction. I was super nervous about our chat and how it might go.
To make a long story short: It went really well, and she has already started to make little changes in the way that she approaches me on those issues. But it was not easy, and delivering the feedback was not in a way that was comfortable for my work style. I had to adjust and adapt, but it was successful.
There were a few things that I believe contributed to the success of the conversation, and I’m starting to consider taking steps like this when providing feedback at home. I mean, if it went well at work… couldn’t it help me at home? Before actually talking to her, I did the following to prep:
Take a weekend to cool off
The actions that had made me the most mad had happened at the end of a very long and tough week at work. I was already drained and little frustrated, when… BOOM! I leave work on Friday with one more thing to be mad about. And I’m MAD. Really mad. Did I call her Friday night at 5:30 to give her a piece of my mind? Nope. I took two days to stew, let a few things go, and attempt to think constructively. By Sunday, I was thinking much more clearly about what the real issues were and my emotions were much “cooler” than they had been.
Write down what you want to say
I often have verbal diarrhea, and I know it. I talk a lot, and often I find myself rambling. Giving someone feedback requires you to get to the point so that the focus and intention is not lost. Spending some time in Evernote (which I’m now obsessed with, by the way) to map out what the real issues were and how it might impact our work at a team was really helpful. It forced me to really hone in on what needed to be addressed while eliminating the “verbal noise” that was not necessary to talk about at that time.
Talk to others for support
We all have those coworkers that are either our friends, or maybe somewhat more of our “work confidants.” We trust them, they trust us, and we are free to share honest issues and concerns and get honest input back. I have a few that I connect with on a regular basis… I sometimes call them my “accountability folks.” I approached two of them to express my frustration and justification for approaching my boss, and 2 more that had reported to her for many years. The first two were able to justify my actions and give me a sounding board for what was really bothering me. They also said, “You can do it, and you should do this!” The last two folks really helped me frame the messages correctly so that the conversation went well… and didn’t end in an emotional explosion. Those people helped me see why the “fluffy” approach was necessary and how it would help me get through to her. I added their advice to my notes as reminders. Talking to them also meant that I had to do it. They would hold me accountable, and I knew it.
Set the stage for both of you
I scheduled a meeting with her during a day when there weren’t supposed to be 35 other priorities taking over, and made sure I was in a good mental place, as well. I chose to do it in her office so she would feel comfortable and hopefully not threatened. I offered to bring her coffee on my way over and approached it by assuming it would go well. I convinced myself that there was nothing to be afraid of. I also did a “Power Pose” right beforehand. If you haven’t seen Amy Cuddy’s TED talk, you have to see it now. It’s awesome, and it works.
I went over what to say, how to say it, and specific verbiage to use (instead of what I naturally wanted to use). Saying those words aloud primed my brain and voice, and it was key to the success of delivery.
Could This Work at Home???
Could I be more intentional about the way that I approach giving feedback to my hubby? Yes. I think I could. It’s silly to really think that I would go through ALL of these steps before approaching him, but I do think that I can try to:
- Take some time to cool off (instead of blowing up like a loose cannon from a Road Runner cartoon)
- Plan how to say my piece more constructively (instead of being nasty or losing focus while my frustration takes over)
- Write it down (even on a post-it, to keep myself focused on what is really important)
- Assume it will go well (instead of looking for a fight)
- Practice how I deliver something. HOW we say it matters more than what we say.
This is my commitment to trying to approach personal feedback as intentionally as I approach my work feedback. Intentionally, while assuming positive outcomes and joint solutions.
Fingers crossed I can stick to it….!