How A Single Skillset Shapes Your Reputation and Relationships

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How important is your reputation to you?

Our reputations are based on our past actions and words. Our good reputations evolve, through consistent behavior, to become a pledge we make to co-workers, friends and family, built brick by brick to become the foundation of predictability and of trust others perceive they can have in each of us. A reputation is something to be cherished and cared for.

We can not afford to lose reputation–even a shred of reputation. Let’s be sure that everything we do…can be reported on the front page of a national newspaper in an article written by an unfriendly but intelligent reporter.

–Warren Buffet, Chairman and CEO of Berkshire Hathaway

How important are relationships to you?

How are good relationships formed? Aren’t they built on behaviors that demonstrate mutual trust and respect? As with reputation, trust and respect typically become unspoken promises between people over time, but can be damaged and even wiped out in moments. For each of us, reputation and relationships are cornerstones of a personal brand, or of a company’s brand, impacting every aspect of our lives. It can take much longer to repair these than it takes to create them.

The way we behave–our words and actions–are critical elements defining our reputations and relationships. And, the bottom line is this: The way we treat others, the way we make them feel, must always be first and foremost in mind. The purpose of this article is to strengthen knowledge and support mastery of a skillset that can drive success in establishing a strong reputation and sustainable relationships over time.

What is a skillset? It’s a combination of knowledge and skill that we can practice and master. Today we’ll focus on a skillset that plays a central role in shaping our reputations and relationships: We call it The Feedback Skillset; it involves knowledge and skills in interpersonal communication and self-regulation. So, the activity we’ll use as our example in applying knowledge and skill to effectively build our reputation and relationships is Feedback. The 4 types of Feedback we’ll use as examples include these:

  1. Requesting Corrective Feedback (aka negative, critical)
  2. Receiving Painful, Corrective Feedback
  3. Giving Positive Feedback (aka thanks, appreciation, praise)
  4. Giving Corrective Feedback

One question that often comes up when we coach on this skillset is this: why is Giving Corrective Feedback the last one on the list, and not the first? This is because we need to learn and demonstrate our ability to accept corrective/negative feedback, to establish credibility, and accepting corrective feedback well helps to strengthen our skill in giving it. Another fact to consider is that people often find it easier to accept corrective feedback from someone who has already shown, by giving them positive feedback, that the good things they do and the valuable skills they have are known and recognized. So, let’s begin!

Requesting Corrective Feedback (aka negative)

One of the best ways to build our Feedback Skillset is to begin by requesting corrective feedback from others. In doing so, it’s important to ask for feedback in a way that it’s clear you’re not fishing for compliments, and that you’re sincere in wanting to continuously learn and improve your skills and knowledge. It demonstrates respect for those you ask, and when you accept it positively you’re showing that you care about it. Further, it is not easy for anyone to give corrective feedback. We often resist doing so because we anticipate a defensive and argumentative response from the recipient. So, our job when we request corrective feedback is to take it in, and view it as the gift that it is. Corrective feedback can be a powerful tool that informs, educates and helps us to grow. Following are the 5 steps that are essential components of this skill — we recommend committing these to memory:

  1. Ask
  2. Listen (without interrupting, asking only clarifying, not challenging, questions, and not explaining the behavior we did)
  3. Thank
  4. Think (consider the perspective shared with you; determine what parts of it you want to use for self-improvement)
  5. Follow-up (get back to the person who gave you the feedback, and let them know how you will be using it)

Receiving Painful, Corrective Feedback

Sometimes, when it’s expected or unexpected, private or public, corrective feedback is painful and hard to hear. It can generate a flash of temper and an angry response if we’re not careful. Our ability to receive this kind of feedback, whether it’s given by an angry, frustrated or resentful individual, is key to demonstrating our commitment to listening, hearing and respecting the views of others whether we like these views or not. Managing our emotions when reacting tells a lot about us. And, if we want others to listen when we provide feedback that is hard for them to hear, we must master self-regulation in these situations. For a detailed explanation of self-regulation, click here: https://rosannamnadeau.com/2021/05/10/self-regulation/ The set of 7 steps we recommend committing to memory for this feedback skill are as follows:

  1. Recognize the the feeling you get from a flaring emotion — and stay silent to self-regulate, to make your decision how to proceed.
  2. Listen for the message — without interrupting
  3. Think — ask clarifying questions, not challenging questions
  4. Summarize the message objectively — positively
  5. Develop solutions or next steps (see Self-Regulation)
  6. Commit to solution or next step
  7. Follow-through as committed

Giving Positive Feedback (aka Thanks, Appreciation, Praise)

Research shows that people need to feel valued and respected for their good qualities and contributions in order to be able to accept corrective feedback, no matter how considerately it may be given. In fact, studies show that, typically, people need to receive 6 times as much positive feedback (thanks, appreciation and/or praise) as corrective (negative, critical) feedback in order to accept and consistently, enthusiastically apply corrective feedback for improvement. In addition, positive feedback needs to be given sincerely and it needs to be meaningful to the recipient to be effective. Saying “good job” or “thanks” by itself is not effective. Following are steps to master to give positive feedback that is sincere and meaningful (the BET and BEE methods):

  1. State the good Behavior specifically
  2. Describe the Effect of the behavior — on the team, the business, or the customer
  3. Say Thank You (if you’re the person’s manager/leader); OR say “Excellent Work” (if you’re a co-worker or peer)

Giving Corrective Feedback (aka negative, critical)

We’ve all probably experienced receiving corrective, hard-to-hear feedback at some points in work or personal life. One thing we are likely to agree on is this: corrective feedback is best given privately (and not via e-mail or text). The way it’s given is made most effective when the giver demonstrates to the recipient that the intention is to help. If we’re annoyed or angry, it’s essential to wait until we can communicate with a constructive mindset, for the purpose of helping the other person. Given constructively with a motive of helping, corrective feedback can strengthen relationships. Following are the steps to commit to memory:

  1. Discreetly, in a private location, explain your intention.
  2. State what you’ve observed (focus on the “subject” not the “you” — the subject is the performance or behavior at issue)
  3. Wait for a response (or ask What Happened) and listen without interruption
  4. Ask for specific solution(s) or offer one if needed
  5. Agree together on a solution
  6. Express confidence (in the person’s ability to change the behavior or performance)
  7. Follow up (to praise or thank improved behavior or performance)

Summary

How would you like people to react (either externally or internally) when they anticipate dealing with you?

The Feedback Skillset is one that has great impact on either building and strengthening relationships and reputation or damaging them. We become known for the way we treat others, and our reputations grow far and wide. Our behavioral choices over time create our legacy. Mastering these skills — and the knowledge about the steps required to apply them — takes effort on a day in and day out basis. It begins with committing the steps to memory so that we can make them automatic. When taking these steps is automatic we find it easier to self-regulate and to choose actions and words that benefit all. Making the effort will enable you to bring out the best in others. Isn’t that how we want to be known and remembered?

How will you build your Feedback Skillset, to optimize and sustain your reputation and your relationships? Will this article be a tool you will choose to leverage? Please share your thoughts, opinions, questions, and experience using the comments below. We welcome your feedback!

Copyright 2021 by Rosanna M. Nadeau

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