“Well behaved women seldom make history”
Another week another blog post. I am so thankful that you are reading this. If you like these posts, please like, comment and share LoudlyImperfect.com with others. These stories are to celebrate the imperfection we all have and our journey to be okay with that.
Feedback can be confusing…
I don’t know about you, but I have received a wide range of professional feedback. Some of it has been really helpful and constructive. However, some of it, not so much. Many times I have been left confused and feeling like I have a separate playbook, or set of standards to be met. (I started my career in the 80’s, so much of my career has been in male leadership models).
The feedback has been so wide ranging, that when I have quietly reflected on it, there are times when I can’t tell if the feedback is really about me or a reflection of the person sharing it. 🤔 I would keep turning it around and think “how could I be viewed so differently?” Also, “why are the standards different in what I observe as okay for others?”
I happen to be someone that overthinks when I get feedback. I turn it round and round. I seek additional feedback from my peers, colleagues and network to see if it rings true or a blind spot. I think deeply about whether it would accentuate a strength or just waste time on fixing something that is just not my baileywick.
It took me a long time to realize the double standard that would be applied to me as a female leader. That I was suppose to lead in a demure feminine way, not an out front blazing the trail sort of way, like my successful male counterparts.
I do truly believe that feedback is an important gift that helps you grow and improve, especially when it comes from someone who is truly invested in your success (and a shout out to many of my male bosses who did). When it comes from a positive place, it should be considered and thought about deeply. When it is gender blind and equitable in its context, then you have the best leader to learn from.
Yet over the course of my career, I have received feedback in a way that is hard to understand and a lack of specific ways to improve. Other times it has been a drop and run, where you not only don’t have any specifics, but also no commitment from the person to invest in my success. It has left me feeling undervalued and at a loss. I also now realize some of it was to actually get me on the sidelines. Thankfully, that has been the exception.
When leaders give meaningful feedback, it is a dialogue, it is specific and there is commitment. It takes a lot of time and it takes a willingness to dig deep.
Unfortunately, poorly executed feedback can leave you feeling poorly…
In the construct of a fast paced work day, feedback, when given at all, seems to be rushed and an after thought. Employees are left feeling unsteady and untethered, in the aftermath. Questioning their worth, becoming dissatisfied or deciding to give a bit less to the team. They don’t feel like they are treated like a person.
For me, over my career, there have been times I have felt that my strengths, work ethic, outcomes and my true leadership gifts were not appreciated. You know the things that makes me unique and authentically empowered.
I am a bold extrovert that passionately can debate a topic with the best of them. And the feedback I have received is pretty far ranging, from, “wow your a great role model for women in leadership”, to “wow you have sharp elbows”. 🙄
Being a strong, capable, and I like to think competent and smart woman, I often observe male colleagues be just as passionate in their debates and just as sharp in their elbows.
Somehow, that was ok and they could even do so in an unprofessional way, slinging sharp language and tone, causing people to feel attacked and berated. But should a woman lean in assertively, in a fact based way, she is seen as emotional, and needs to be counseled or softened in some way.
I know a lot has been written about this, yet it is still so pervasive among companies and something my female network talks about a lot. I coach and mentor a lot of women struggling to be authentic and get a seat at the table. They often feel constrained by the fine line they have to walk. It wastes so much of their energy and takes away from how awesome a company could be, if they just embraced their full contribution.
A few feedback beauties…
So this week, my hope is that I can share the other side of when we girls hear the feedback on what we are suppose to change.
You talk to much in meetings (or not enough): “really, do you have a specific example?” – this after having to try and get a word in as your being talked over and dismissed. 🤦♀️
You need to improve your executive presence: “can you be specific?” Well you know, “your presence needs to be executive”. This generally is translated by women to be their external looks, not the poise, intelligence, impact and confidence they bring to the room and topic being discussed.
You have sharp elbows: “what does that even mean?” “Your too aggressive on topics” – my retort “when I see the guys soften their elbows, I will too, let me know if my tone, intention or emphasis is unprofessional”. (I can promise you it never is)
What I have learned over the years…
Here’s the thing, it is not so easy to get meaningful feedback. The feedback we do get, we all have to discern and determine if it is really going to help us be our best authentic selves. Too much positive feedback isn’t helping you grow and too much constructive feedback doesn’t help either. Balanced, constructive and specific feedback is what you should expect period!
Women appreciate specific, timely and actionable feedback, not generalities. High achievers, be it women or men, appreciate that too. We don’t want to be seeking a fan club, we want to build high performing, highly engaged teams delivering for the customer and the business.
We have to evolve to give feedback that is gender agnostic and person specific. Focusing on how to improve the effectiveness of the individual in service to the customers and company. When you care enough to think about what could best help the person your leading, it builds a deep trusting relationship and the employees engagement goes sky high. They will be all in.
The feedback women need is how to succeed in the company, culture and what are the real rules. How do they get advice on getting real sponsorship, networking opportunities, stretch assignments, and authentic help to achieve their goals. How do they get positioned to be in the pipeline from line management to the board room.
A final thought…
We can all grow through feedback and become better as a result.
When getting feedback, evaluate it, corroborate it, look for trusted colleagues to be mirrors. You should expect it to be timely and specific, not packaged up annually. If the feedback makes sense to you, make a plan that includes skin in the game, from the person giving you the feedback. How can they help you, not just drop and run. Their job is just beginning … not ending.
Give feedback to others from a place of seeing the value in them and helping them see the value in themselves