Thanks for the Feedback | Book Review

Book of the year.

“Nothing affects the learning culture of an organization more than the skill with which its executive team receives feedback.”

Douglas Stone & Sheila Heen’s watershed Thanks for the Feedback candidly and systematically breaks down why receiving feedback is so difficult and what we as leaders and our organizations can do about it. This book should be absorbed slowly, and then kept nearby for both professional and personal relationship improvement.

Read the Road Map near the end (page 337) first, which is more detailed than the table of contents, and provides a great outline for future reference. Two nuggets from the powerful introduction:

“Only 28 percent of HR professionals believe their managers focus on more than simply completing forms. Sixty-three percent of executives surveyed say their biggest challenge to effective performance management is that their managers lack the courage and ability to have difficult feedback discussions.”

Set up the need for understanding our feedback challenges. Chapter 1 introduces the three triggers that block feedback: Truth Triggers (Chapters 2-4), Relationship Triggers (Chapters 5-6) and Identity Triggers (Chapters 7-9). Page 25 summarizes the three triggers and offers useful advice for overcoming each challenge. Chapters 10-13 instruct us how to set boundaries and get started with our new knowledge.

Truth Triggers

Chapter 2 identifies three types of feedback; appreciation, coaching, and evaluation, and offers guidance (summary on page 35) when to use each. Guidance regarding how we sequence evaluation prior to coaching is particularly useful, along with establishing the purpose of feedback (coaching) sessions. This is a powerful reminder to organize our feedback sessions ahead of time with tools such as our coaching forms. Chapter 3 remind us of the Platinum Rule, especially in coaching and evaluation sessions (see What Was Heard | What Was Meant chart on page 53), along with E2L Expectations (Implicit Rules – page 65). Chapter 4 directly correlates to our E2L Blindsides and also includes a Blind Spot | Feedback chart (page 81) similar to the Johari Window.

Relationship Triggers

Chapter 5 introduces a wonderful term, Switchback Conversations, where two individuals are giving feedback, no one is receiving it, and each party continues along their separate paths growing further apart. The authors describe we frequently respond more to the person giving feedback rather than their message. Chapter 6 advises us that taking a different, more objective view of relationships (very similar to the book Decisive), allowing us to untangle individuals from their messages to us.

Identity Triggers

Chapter 7 reminds us of our instinctive E2L profiles (or wiring, page 148), and explains how we need time to process feedback returning to our baseline state. Chapter 8 amplifies the importance of preparing for feedback (summary chart page 173); especially identifying what the feedback session is not about, minimizing our frequent tendency toward overreaction. Chapter 9 reminds us of our need for growth through feedback, a reminder for our Personal Leadership Philosophies, with a terrific series of identity questions on page 196 for us to practice our leadership development.

What to Do

Chapter 10 offers three boundaries necessary as leaders:

1.   I May Not Take Your Advice
2.   I Don’t Want Feedback About That Subject, Not Right Now
3.   Stop, Or I Will Leave The Relationship

Along with guidelines when boundaries are needed, such as with The Constant Critic (page 215). Chapter 11, Navigate The Conversation, may be the best chapter in the book, and is full of tips (see internal voice chart on page 239) and example conversations we may have with our internal voices and others.

In summary, a breakthrough book for anyone we care deeply about. And ourselves.

JE | June 2014