The Compass That Guides You
Imagine having a compass gifted to you that not only points North but also guides you through the labyrinth of personal and professional life, offering insights into strengths and areas for growth. That's what feedback and coaching can be—a navigational tool that helps you find your way to becoming your best self. But how do we ensure that this compass is more of a helpful guide than a misleading distraction? Let's explore the art of advocating through feedback and coaching.
The "GIFT" of Feedback: A Treasure Trove of Growth
Feedback isn't just a set of observations or critiques; it's a "GIFT." This isn't just a catchy acronym; it's a philosophy that turns feedback into a treasure trove of personal and professional growth.
- Given with Permission: Imagine someone handing you a beautifully wrapped gift. You'd be more likely to accept it willingly, right? The same goes for feedback; it should be offered, not imposed harshly.
- Intent is for Growth: This is the golden thread that weaves through the fabric of feedback. It's not about tearing down; it's about building up, strengthening, and empowering.
- For the Person, Not About the Person: Think of feedback as a tailored suit, designed to fit you perfectly but not define you. It's about your actions, not your identity.
- Targeted for Success: What's the point of a map if it doesn't lead you to treasure? Feedback should guide you toward actionable steps that spell success.
The Invisible Contract: Psychological Safety
Psychological safety is the bedrock upon which effective feedback is built. It's an invisible contract of trust between the giver and receiver of feedback. In essence, psychological safety means creating an environment where people feel secure enough to express themselves openly, take risks, and even make mistakes without fear of ridicule or punishment. It's like having a safety net below a tightrope, encouraging more daring and authentic performances because the fear of falling has been mitigated.
Boundaries as Pillars of Psychological Safety
Boundaries serve as the pillars that uphold the structure of psychological safety and the labyrinth of feedback. When boundaries are respected, individuals feel secure enough to share their thoughts, challenge existing norms, and contribute to discussions without fear of backlash. These boundaries can range from respecting someone's right to speak without interruption to acknowledging the emotional weight of a topic and navigating it with care.
Set Boundaries, Find Peace: A Guide to Reclaiming Yourself by Nedra Glover Tawwab is a great resource to understand boundaries as they apply throughout all aspects of life.
The Risks of Violating Psychological Safety
Violating psychological safety is akin to removing one or more pillars from a structure—it weakens the entire edifice and risks causing it to collapse. Here are some of the risks associated with violating psychological safety:
- Erosion of Trust
- Trust is the cornerstone of any relationship, and violating psychological safety can erode this vital element. Once trust is compromised, rebuilding it is a long and arduous process.
- Suppression of Voice
- When people feel that their boundaries are not respected, they are less likely to speak up or contribute their ideas. This suppression not only hampers individual growth but also stifles innovation and problem-solving within a team or relationship.
- Emotional Drain
- Violating psychological safety can lead to emotional exhaustion. The constant need to be on guard, to weigh every word, and to anticipate potential conflict can be draining, affecting both well-being and performance.
- Escalation into Conflict
- Minor violations can escalate into major conflicts if not addressed promptly. What starts as a single instance of overstepping a boundary can snowball into a series of violations that may become irreparable.
- Decreased Engagement and Productivity
- When psychological safety is compromised, engagement and productivity suffer. People are less motivated to invest their time and energy into a project or relationship where they feel unsafe or disrespected.
The Navigational Compass: What, When, Where, and How Often
Just as a compass provides direction to a lost traveler, effective feedback serves as a navigational tool that guides us through the labyrinth of personal and professional growth. But for feedback to be truly effective, it needs to be specific and actionable. Here's how:
- What Needs to Change
- The "what" is the core issue or behavior that needs attention. It's the destination you're pointing to on your navigational compass. Whether it's a skill that needs to be honed or a behavior that needs modification, being clear about "what" is the first step in effective feedback.
- When and Where
- Timing and context are crucial. Feedback should be given at an appropriate time and in an appropriate setting. The "when" could be immediately after an event, during a scheduled review, or when both parties have the time to engage deeply. The "where" could be a private meeting room, a quiet corner, or even a virtual chat—anywhere that ensures confidentiality and minimizes distractions.
- How Often
- Frequency matters. While some feedback may be a one-time observation, other issues may require ongoing discussions. The key is to find a balance so that the feedback process is neither overwhelming nor forgotten.
Boundary Lines and Your Self-Care Map
Boundaries are like the walls of the labyrinth—cross them, and you risk losing your way or, worse, causing harm. In the context of feedback and coaching, boundaries could be personal, professional, or even emotional.
When boundaries are crossed, it's essential to have a self-care map—a set of predetermined actions you'll take to protect your well-being. Whether it's taking a break, seeking third-party mediation, or re-evaluating the relationship or engagement, your self-care map is your guide to psychological safety.
Communicating your exact self-care map is a personal choice. This is not a threat or ultimatum but rather a proactive plan to navigate back to safety. It can be phrased as a statement similar to: if the needs cannot be met or the boundaries respected, here are the steps I'll take to remediate the impact that I'm experiencing. This is feedback that indicates self-agency and your right to seek solutions for things that impact your own experience or well-being.
I have used feedback across my entire career and personal life to develop better perspective and insight. Every written work, I first receive feedback prior to publishing. To navigate situations, I use feedback and coaching to orient myself or gain additional perspective. Getting feedback is a key ingredient to refining thoughts, ideas, and approaches.
Navigating the labyrinth of personal and professional growth is a complex journey, but with the right tools—feedback and coaching—you're never alone. By using your navigational compass wisely, respecting boundaries, and being both intentional and mindful, you can turn this intricate maze into a rewarding adventure. Your compass is not just showing you where you are; it's guiding you toward who you could become.
When done right, advocating through feedback and coaching can be a peak moment that signifies not an end, but a new beginning—a higher level of understanding, a stronger relationship, and a clearer path forward.