I say this often, and many times people look at me funny. After all, the feedback I give you is about something you did. It isn’t about me at all, is it?
Not so fast, my friend.
Let’s say you have been promoted to lead people who do a job you used to do. When you give them feedback, it is nearly impossible for you not to see their performance through the prism of what you see as success. You got promoted for your expertise and ability to do tasks, and so you know how to do those tasks … well.
So well, in fact, that there is a right way to do it … your way.
As you review someone else’s performance, won’t you be considering how you would do it and what parts of it you view as most important?
So, in that moment isn’t your feedback about more than just their performance?
Let’s take a less personal example.
If you have ever watched a law drama on TV, you have seen the following situation: Two people are called to testify as witnesses to a crime, and their testimony isn’t exactly the same. They witnessed the same event, but didn’t see the same thing.
Does this mean one of them is lying?
But, just as likely, since we witness things through our own filters, both were reporting what they saw and remembered, based on what is important to them. In this instance, like the one I’ve already described, the reporting isn’t simply about the events, but about how the observer (i.e. giver of the feedback) saw, digested and interpreted it.
This of course doesn’t mean that your experience and perspective doesn’t matter when giving feedback, but it does mean that when you recognize your perspective for what it is, and not 100% “truth,” your ability to give feedback that is helpful will improve.