The Five Fallacies of Feedback

Mention the word “feedback” and most people cringe, at least on the inside. Feedback isn’t the problem. How feedback is delivered is most often the issue. Poor feedback delivery skills are in large part a result of a limited view of what feedback is, and what it can be.

My list of the five fallacies of feedback highlights the most common limiting beliefs I’ve seen turn delivering feedback into a torturous experience for everyone involved. I also illuminate how taking a coaching approach to offering feedback can transform feedback conversations into honorable dialogues that inspire people to embrace significant change while honoring the other person. Can you hear the sighs of relief?

The Five Fallacies of Feedback

  1. The person is the problem.

People’s behavior may be problematic, but the person is not the problem. The “problem” is likely the person’s lack of skill and/or understanding. Treating people like they are problems causes problems. Coaching and feedback invite people to realize more of their potential by learning new ways of thinking and acting.

  1. Feedback is corrective.

While some feedback is corrective, it’s the feedback that inspires growth by illuminating possibilities that is the lifeblood of learning. The most powerful developmental feedback invites people to stretch and grow, sometimes going from good to terrific!

  1. People choose to be “bad.”

Whatever people do, it makes perfect sense to them, and it is their best attempt to attain the things that matter most to them. Feedback and coaching begin with getting curious about the choices people make without judging the person.

  1. Telling someone to change is enough to make them change.

Just telling someone to change, without helping the person understand what to do differently, results in frustration, not change. That’s why feedback and coaching need to be used together. Feedback helps people understand the unintended consequences of their behavior, while coaching creates the shifts of perspective and helps build the skills needed for people to embrace new ways of doing things.

  1. A person’s reaction to feedback has nothing to do with how the feedback is delivered.

Too often feedback is delivered with a heavy dose of judgment, which people naturally sense and react to, usually by defending against the feedback. When feedback is delivered from the perspective of being of service to others, it is more often embraced as the gift it can, and should be.

Dianna Anderson, MCC
CEO, Cylient

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What limiting belief about feedback have you noticed? How do you reframe the belief help people offer feedback as a gift?

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