Friday, December 12, 2014

Feedback: Are you brave enough to ask for it, and smart enough to demand it?

Most human beings have a natural positive reaction to praise and acknowledgement, and a resistance or fear toward constructive criticism. Often people are disappointed when they receive none of the first, but are more than happy to receive none of the second. Recently I have been both the receiver and giver of "feedback", and as much as I am utterly uncomfortable in both scenarios, I have built a muscle over the years allowing me to put both experiences in the category of "essential growth process".

As entrepreneurs we have an ethical and social responsibility to provide excellent customer service. It is essential to our brand elevation and presence. Further, it is what we deserve and expect for ourselves.So, why as a human being would you not want to provide that for others?

When you are offering a service or are working on a team, your performance, efforts, and ways of being are the anchor points to an excellent experience by others.This will dictate more business down the line as people will hire you again, and refer others to work with you. If you promise to deliver something, you are responsible for meeting your word about that product...not just by basic standards, but standards of excellence. If for some reason you are unable to deliver something in excellence, be prepared to receive feedback about it.

Feedback does not make you right or wrong, nor is it good or bad - feedback is information. Feedback is a mirror image of what you are putting out so you can compare it to your original intention and commitment to what you said you would deliver. True integrity even values what you didn't say you would put out, but what should be expected as quality customer service. Constructive criticism is a blessing for you, and a tool with which to learn, adjust, and redeliver your work at its optimal potential.

So why, when we are presented with this awesome opportunity for feedback, do we often react in anger, rejection, fear, defensiveness, projection, embarrassment, and negativity? Because somewhere in our minds at some point in our lives we started to develop our "ego". Ego has a lot of negative connotations attached to it it, but is defined as: the part of the psychic apparatus that experiences and reacts to the outside world and thus mediates between the primitive drives of the id and the demands of the social and physical environment...What the hell does that mean? Ego is about self assurance balanced with social acceptance, and how they feed off one another. The panic mode we go into when someone criticizes us is primed from our wanting to feel we did our best, and if we perhaps did not, protect the idea that we did, so we look good. We are often embarrassed and thrown back in the face of criticism, and when we are not aware we are not delivering the best experience, we automatically want to defend our honor. Because of our egos we thrive on praise because we see it as "good", and we reject criticism because we see it as "bad". But let me ask you this: Would you prefer for people to blow smoke up your ass, allow you to produce or behave as mediocre, so you can feel "good", OR would you be willing to risk feeling a little uncomfortable, and take responsibility for what you could deliver so you can be extraordinary? I will assert the latter.

While producing and developing programs and workshops, I will always question my participants. How was your experience? What did you love? Did we meet your expectations? What was missing for you? What would you like to see more of? Would you refer us to others? The answers may not be pleasant - though I hope they will be - but I am looking for common concerns and grievances that need to be adjusted. I try my best to remember to keep my emotions out of it and look for golden nuggets to use and change for the better. This absolutely goes for personal relationships too; my closest friends are people who support me by lovingly acknowledging my efforts, but also aren't afraid to tell me when I fuck up.

Further, don't get chickenshit around giving feedback either. You cannot complain about anything unless you do or say something about it. If you are offered a service, and it is not delivered in excellence, how will they know unless you tell them? You deserve to get a top notch experience, whether you are paying a lot or nothing at all. But if you are putting money down, and not being responsible about being vocal of exactly what you want and expect, then do not complain when you don't get it. Nothing makes my eyes roll more than incessant bitching with no ownership of how you could have made it different. Some people were not educated with the same ethics as you, but you learn over time with referrals and experience who to work with and who not to.

So how can you use feedback to elevate your business, your customer experience, and even your personal relationships?

  • Remember feedback is not good or bad, right or wrong. It is simply information.
  • The best businesses (and people), are not afraid of receiving feedback. In fact, they look for it, and base the elevation of their business on it.
  • When receiving and giving feedback, try to extract the emotion out of it. A dissatisfied customer will have an emotional reaction. However, if you can read between the lines and see what it is that actually needs an adjustment, putting your ego aside, then you have an amazing tool at your disposal.
  • Be responsible about how you give feedback. If your intention is just to bitch and make a point, don't bother. Your biggest possibility to make a difference will be lost in translation if your behavior sucks. Give feedback with the intention of caring that the other person or business will grow because of it.
  • Be responsible about how you receive feedback. If your emotions begin to cause a reaction that initiates defensiveness, stop, count to 10, take deep breaths and say to yourself, what can I learn from this? How can this inspire me to create a better experience?
  • Have gratitude for your feedback, even if it stings like a bitch. Down the line you may realize that this was one of the best things that could have happened for you.
  • Take what you need and leave behind the rest. Not every bit of feedback you receive has pertinence.
  • You will know deep in your heart which feedback is most important.

In the end we all need to be self-cleaning ovens. Sometimes we can only count on ourselves to allow for the biggest growth. Remember what customer service is for you. If you wouldn't settle for anything less than the optimum experience when purchasing a service, a product, or a relationship with another human being, then you absolutely must hold yourself to the same standards.

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