'Unsolicited' feedback - Valuable approach to derive value

While we are quite familiar with the concept of 'feedback' and have faced many while at work, how many of us actually have noticed 'unsolicited’ feedback? This kind of feedback is also an important input when it comes to making behavioural changes. Most of us spend our entire life and career oblivious to these subtle cues or ignore these remarks that we receive. If given a little more thought, these too could make us more effective professionals by imbibing specific behavioural changes.

Most of us associate 'Unsolicited’ feedback with a negative connotation, especially if the feedback is not positive. However, if we delve deeper into it we would see that these feedbacks are also helpful. It is important to keep both ear and mind open to be able to derive the benefit from it especially when it comes from people ‘who matter’. Receiving feedback itself is an art and it is important to be able to identify such 'opportunities'. Opportunities, I would call for self and professional development.

For example, when I was heading HR for one of the business groups of a retail bank in India, we had aggressive growth mandates. My team along with the line managers was working at their best to ramp up the recruitment and also keep the attrition in control. However, one of my department head was extremely worried and upset after two of her key and high potential employees left in May, post the increment cycle. She had tried her best to retain them but was unsuccessful. She was given to understand that they were leaving for better opportunities, which surprised her since these two team members had received ample growth.

Clearly, they were not leaving for better opportunities rather something else didn’t work out well here. Later during exit interviews it was found that the concerned manager was micromanaging too much. Her team had given this feedback several times and in several ways, which she simply chose to ignore or failed to pick up. For instance, the team used to joke in front of her at the lunch table about how many times she changes her mind about simple things and also about her ‘nth’ versions of drafts and reminders. Had the manager picked these cues on several occasions, she could have avoided these costly mistakes.

In looking for ‘unsolicited’ feedback, it is important to be mindful about four key things:

1. Assess the context: Understand 'who' has made the comment or remark or expressed the non - verbal cues. If it comes from close friends, family, colleagues, boss or other important stakeholders at the workplace, we shouldn’t ignore it. Additionally, we should understand the context and assess the circumstance before turning a blind eye.

2. Be 'open' and 'willing' to pick up such cues: One needs to be open and have the willingness to learn from these feedbacks and make changes rather than being in denial.

3. Be non-defensive and introspect: While receiving such feedback, one should refrain from being defensive and making any judgements about the person who is providing valuable data point for possible course correction. Rather, one should try to delve deeper into his or herself and identify the specific behaviour that needs to be changed. Focus should be on the 'what' rather than 'why'.

4. Apply what we have learnt: To be able to truly benefit from such feedback, one should make the behavioural change and also apply the same in the future. The real change or rather personal growth will only happen when one truly assimilates and applies it in the future.

So, next time when we face such a situation, let's be patient, logical and step back to introspect more, only to thank the person later when we actualise the true benefit from it.


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