You know that wonderful feeling after you’ve finished a good spring-cleaning? The feeling of everything having a place, closets purged, and calm surrounds you if only for a moment? (Yeah, mine doesn’t last long either) There is that brief moment before maybe the kids come home from a playdate and toss their toys about, or the dog tracks mud in, or you have back-to-back work trips, and the laundry monster begins to overtake your personal space again.
Feedback reminds me of Spring-cleaning, we have to take each piece of it and filter it through two questions, “Does this feedback serve me and help me do better?” and “How is this applicable to what I am trying to achieve?” All too often we let feedback just build up like items in a junk drawer. It might nag at us, or if delivered poorly even make us feel bad. (Looking at your plastic take out utensils taking over my junk drawer, and guy who dinged me on a session review because “there were too many people in the room who he didn’t personally like.”)
Asking, “Does this feedback serve me and help me do better?” determines if the feedback is constructive. As in does it give you elements to apply and build upon, or is it lacking a way to make your work better because it is not something you can leverage. The truth is, many people view feedback boxes as a way to meet a need to be heard, not to actually improve the world around them. This perspective speaks more to a defect in our culture that we make people feel small or unheard so often people grasp for opportunities to be heard even if it’s not relevant or helpful. That’s a chat for a different day perhaps, the point is that we need to remember we have permission to disregard criticism submitted under the guise of constructive feedback.
Constructive is defined as to build up. If there is no building opportunity, or if the feedback was mean, throw it out. Just in case you’ve been searching for it, here it is, your permission to throw useless feedback away. Think of it as your old gym shoes you find at the back of your closet, too broken down, no longer offering support. Time for them to go just as it’s time for useless feedback to stop rattling around in our heads making us feel bad.
“How is this applicable to what I am trying to achieve?” filters if the feedback is meant to be applied immediately or should be filed away to leverage later. Take the feedback and run it through your current goals, does it help you step forward? Does it spark any new ideas? If the answer is still no, then if it’s healthy and constructive find a place to file it that is easily accessible at a later date. Personally, I have an email folder called “Feedback to consider” where I save useful feedback as a reminder of things to consider, then when I’m playing with a new idea or goal, I scan those past emails to help me plan.
Throw the mean or useless stuff out, not all of it should make the cut to take up space in your head and your heart!
Christina Rowe, MSOL is the founder of The Collaborative and Co-Founder of The Remote Leader Project and is a highly respected expert in the fields of organization development, collaborative leadership, team communication and engagement. With a keen ability to swiftly identify the dynamics, strengths, and interactions of teams and leaders, Christina is a powerful resource for organizations looking to improve their team effectiveness by advancing their productivity, communication, and overall team communication.