Why anonymous feedback from direct reports, colleagues and management is vital for high-level advancement


Last week we introduced Deloitte’s latest report that encapsulates results from its global survey on human capital trends. The report is very clear; in the future “feedback” will increasingly replace the more traditional employee appraisals.

Today, these feedback reports are often 360-assessments. At CCI, we frequently conduct these reports for corporate candidates. The process includes debriefing and coaching sessions with each individual.

Also known as multi-source feedback, anonymous comments from an employee’s direct reports, colleagues and boss, along with the person’s self-evaluation make-up the feedback. The objective is to bring to light top attributes for professional development purposes. The debriefing/coaching segment is critical to help the individual read between the lines.

Case study: Tony’s actions were at odds with his goals

One of the surest signs of true candidates for high-level advancement is their acceptance of less than positive feedback. In CCI’s recently published White Paper, we describe a situation with challenging circumstances that involved unfavorable feedback.

When we first met “Tony” at a workshop, he absolutely dazzled us with his effortless, graceful ability to engage people and his profoundly professional presentation skills. During a preliminary review of his 360-assessment, with feedback from across Tony’s organization, we were stunned by the discrepancy between what we had witnessed and the reported behavior. Colleagues and senior leaders found him prickly and short-tempered, especially during group meetings. We were baffled.

Shortly after reading the feedback, we were scheduled for more extensive training sessions at his firm’s HQ. Immediately, we connected with Tony to informally chat about the disparity between our experience and the comments about his imperious “performances” in the boardroom. We did not mince words, but told him straight out about his unrestrained conduct.

Tony got it immediately. He explained that he became impatient; he was trying to move things forward. Tony also revealed his personal ambitions to advance to a very specific role within the C-Suite. Our role was to help him understand that his actions were at odds with his goals.

Discover how this situation was resolved. Did Tony move to a higher plateau or crash and burn? Read the full story, Benefit #6: To motivate the next generation of leaders. Download the WP >

Feedback timelines

Typically, there is an 18-month hiatus between the first series of feedback and coaching sessions, and the follow-up series. This allows participants time to evolve. With a narrower window of only three to six months, there really isn’t sufficient time to see significant development. An interesting sidebar to the opening initiative is how participants respond to feedback. Many are surprised by the comments and perceptions. “I didn’t know people saw me as a leader,” is a frequent admission. Obviously, this positive information spurs the person to welcome L&D opportunities and reinforces a maturity of action and behavior.

The other side of the coin, often apparent among corporate stars, occurs when the feedback reports arrogance. As more and more frequently today, leadership roles go to people with highly advanced “people skills,” in this case, the organization is giving the person a heads-up!

By drawing attention to address this potentially career-limiting flaw and providing sufficient time within the 18-month time frame, there is a better chance for awakened empathy.

If you would like to read details about our Assessment process and its application for your organization… Learn more >

If you missed last week’s blog about Deloitte’s latest report…Learn more >

How to accept and apply feedback you didn’t ask for (and didn’t know you needed)

unsolicited feedback

What happens when we receive unsolicited feedback, feedback we weren’t prepared for, feedback that hurts the ego?
One of the best ways to grow as a professional – whether a seasoned employee or someone just entering the job market – is by applying feedback from friends, family, colleagues and superiors. We often receive feedback only when we ask for it, as people may be weary of offering it unsolicited.
There are, however, the brave souls who go out of their way to offer unsolicited feedback to a colleague or a friend, in order to help them improve and grow. What happens when we receive feedback we didn’t ask for, and didn’t know we needed?

Avoiding a shutdown

Receiving hard-to-stomach, unsolicited feedback about our performance, appearance or presentation skills, for example, can sometimes cause us to shut down as a mode of self-protection.
“What do you mean I was mumbling during that presentation?? I think you’re wrong.
I was pretty well-spoken!”
Our first reaction is often to counter the feedback in order to protect ourselves, typically by becoming defensive. For instance, if a colleague mentions that he or she noticed your shirt is wrinkled 4 out of 5 days of the week, you may be tempted to say something like: “Well, you know how busy I am and there are no dry cleaners close to me. Plus, it shouldn’t matter what I look like. What should matter is my productivity.”
Following the criticism, we often become defensive, come up with excuses or change the subject. These reactions are misplaced and detrimental to our growth.

How to apply unsolicited feedback

Hearing tough feedback – especially when you least expect it – can be bruising to the ego. It’s critical that the ego be left out as it blocks personal development.
Here are some tips to help you absorb, and apply, feedback that you didn’t ask for (and that you needed):
1. Always be in a “feedback mindset”.
At Corporate Class, we encourage our clients to always be in a “networking mindset”, that is, to be open to networking everywhere they go, like the grocery store, gym or the long line at Starbucks. The same applies to feedback. If people are consistently open and willing to receive feedback from others, they will never (or rarely) be taken off-guard.
2. Isolate and clarify
This sustained “feedback mindset” allows people to process unsolicited feedback when it comes. It is important that, if the feedback is unclear, individuals first isolate the point they don’t understand, and clarify what the person means.
3. Don’t take it personally
When a colleague, superior or friend offers you feedback you didn’t ask for, it means they care about you and want you to succeed. If you take the feedback personally, in a negative way, you’re missing out on a great self-improvement opportunity.
4. Practice, and then confirm
Changing behaviour with the hope of sustainability requires lots of practice. Take the feedback to heart, practice making the necessary changes, and confirm with those around you in a few weeks that they’ve noticed a change.
It’s wonderful when those around us, who care about our happiness and success, are bold enough to offer unsolicited feedback. It takes courage on their part to offer feedback in the first place. We should be courageous and accept the feedback with grace and humility. After all, our colleagues and friends are simply trying to help us get to where we know we belong.