How to Make Looking Bad Look Good
The path to remarkable is paved with feedback.
Feedback, received well, transforms leaders. However, the behavior leaders fail at most is seeking feedback.
Feedback that hurts the most often helps the most.
Getting the most from negative feedback:
The value of negative feedback is maximized in environments where looking bad is good.
Mediocre leaders diminish the opportunity of feedback when they try to make themselves look good by posturing, minimizing poor performance, excuse-making, or hiding mistakes.
Be willing to look bad in your pursuit of excellence.
How to make looking bad look good:
Powerful feedback requires transparency, vulnerability, and honesty in recipients. Here are five ways to help others open up to negative feedback.
- Provide abundant positive feedback. Bad is stronger than good. Negative feedback has positive impact where there’s abundant honor, reward, and recognition.
- Let positive feedback stand on its own. Don’t use positives to soften the blow of negatives. See the good, say the good. Honor effort, energy, skill, and character more than results. You get what you honor.
- Be vulnerable by sharing your own frailties, shortcomings, struggles, and failures. Don’t share for sympathy. Share your struggles to affirm that growth is a journey not a destination.
- Normalize failure. You aren’t reaching high enough if you always succeed.
- Honor aspiration.
- Celebrate progress.
- Learn from failure. What are you learning? What will you do differently next time.
- Let go past failure. Forgiveness is permission to try again.
- Recognize teammates who fail, learn, get up, and move forward.
- Failure due to apathy or lack of effort.
- Repeated failure in the same way.
- Giving up.
Confront, don’t celebrate, useless failure.
Successful leaders create environments where it’s safe to not look good in the pursuit of excellence.
How might leaders create environments where negative feedback yields positive results?
Thanks to leaders at All4 Inc. for inspiring this post.
Love this! Definitely would have helped when I was a district manager handing out evaluations!
Use the “negative feedback”as a “tool” to nurture the group or individuals involved in a constructive fashion and enhance their future learning what went wrong, were we went wrong and how on to prevent the same from happening again.
Thanks Tim. I’m glad you shared your insights. I particularly resonate with the idea that we are trying to prevent repetition of the same mistakes.
hard not too, your topics are so intriguing and really you are making a difference everyday for the betterment of all leaders and just plain everyday people who now have a shining light!
you truly are a blessing to be with us! I cherish all that you have been teaching us trying to better our lives and many others!
Dan, when I was younger I used to think it was entirely someone else’s accountability to give proper feedback. As I’ve matured I realize it is an equal accountability. It’s interesting we use words like “vulnerability” to describe this process when true vulnerability in a person, team and organization is when this doesn’t happen!
I’m more vulnerable when I’m less vulnerable. And I’m stronger and more secure when I let my shields drop.
In our teams we talk about the honor to coach and be coached. It’s a honor to coach because someone is letting you in; they are being vulnerable and trusting you enough to do right by them to help them move forward. It’s a honor to be coached; to have someone care enough about you and your progress that they will enter into that space with you. What a gift that is!
I can’t say getting feedback is easy. It’s not. But giving it isn’t easy either. So it takes work from both parties to make it happen in a productive way. In sports they talk about the difference between being hurt and being injured. It’s okay to be hurt; to feel a bit of pain. It’s not okay to be injured. Coaching is like that. A ittle hurt, a little dirt, a little grit – that’s okay. Injure someone? That’s not cool.
Thanks Alf. Your insights help me. The idea that we are more vulnerable when we are less vulnerable is awesome. It’s a well turned phrase. But, more than that, it captures a profound truth.
Vulnerability, in the coaching context, is acting with our own best interests in mind.
I’m in the midst of reading and reflecting on Ed Catmull’s book (Creativity, Inc.), and in his book he describes the culture (type of group) that they’ve named as “Braintrust.” It’s well worth reading about.
I’m convinced that we need a paradigm shift in our own heart/mind regarding what failure is and what it’s not – change always begins with us first. And I’m equally as convinced that if leaders really saw themselves and ones entrusted with a responsibility to bring out the best in others (and others believed that!) there could be a radical shift in many, many organizations and lives.
Thanks for another great blog post!
Thanks Carmen. You hit on the central factor for successful feedback and coaching…the pursuit of what’s best in ourselves and others. If I believe you have my best in mind, it allows me be vulnerable.
Love your use of the word ‘honor.’…because honor is a virtue, not a value. Always a great post, Dan.
Dan, after a lot of thought I believe you’re right that feedback makes “bad” look “good.” And I think the reason is feedback transforms the question and answer of “how am I feeling,” to “what’s the meaning of how I am feeling?”
It is one of life’s ironies that human beings check-in with themselves about their performance at exactly the moment when their mood is at its lowest. Rarely do we check-in on our mood when we’re at our best or working on something engrossing. At those moments we don’t bother to relish in our peak performance or fulfillment. No, we wait to check-in when we aren’t our normal self, or we’re not actively fulfilled. How brilliant is that?
So, if and when we consistently seek feedback, we can invest our energy in meaningful activities. We can put on a forward trajectory that is bound to create more productivity, more meaningful work, and more fulfillment and wellness for ourselves and others. The key is to see feedback as “meaning.”
The title: HOW TO MAKE LOOKING BAD LOOK GOOD. Making a mistake doesn’t look bad unless there is no learning from that mistake – as you say in this post. The photo has such a great message and has been saved for future sharing.
As almost always, for me at least, quotes from Albert Einstein come to mind: “A person what’s not made a mistake has never tried anything new.” And “Insanity: Doing the same thing over and over, expecting different outcomes.”
Interesting one… I was once punished because my boss could not achieve his targets – his fault. He thought it would be good to show all of us in a bad light, so that he could look good