74: [Ask Halelly] What if I ask if I can give feedback and they say no? on the TalentGrow Show with Halelly Azulay

ep 74 Ask Halelly What if I ask if I can give feedback and they say no on the TalentGrow Show with Halelly Azulay

“Should I ask first if it’s okay to give feedback, and what if they say ‘No’?” That’s the question I’m answering on this second-ever Ask Halelly episode of the TalentGrow Show podcast, and this time, it’s a voice-recorded question! Listen to my answer and the follow-up discussion that ensued via voicemail and email, and chime in via the comments in the shownotes – what do you think? Have you ever experienced this? And of course, don’t be shy and submit your own question that might be featured on a future episode of Ask Halelly on the TalentGrow Show!

Harry: Hi Halelly, should you ask someone first if it’s okay to give them feedback before giving it? And if so, what should you do if they say ‘No’?

Halelly: Interesting problem, huh? Harry, thanks so much for your voice message question and here are my thoughts.

I’d want to know more about the relationship to give you the proper advice. For example, if you are the person’s manager, then they kind of can’t refuse your feedback, right? So in that case, if you ask and they say “No”, I’d say something like, “can you elaborate – why not? This is important to your performance. Is it a bad time now? Or is there something else I should know?”

You will need to be curious but also to persist to find a way to deliver the feedback, because obviously it’s a role-appropriate and business-imperative.

But, if this is someone who does not report to you, maybe a boss, or a peer, or a personal connection, then the story is a bit different since they don’t really HAVE to listen to your feedback.

I’d still be curious. Is it the timing? Or is there a history of your feedback being particularly ill-delivered and/or hurtful and that’s why they are refusing it? Or is there low trust in the relationship? Why would they say No? I’d start there, and work on repairing the relationship, trust, and ability to communicate openly.

And no, you cannot force them to listen to your feedback, unfortunately, but the ‘good news’ is that you’ve discovered a bigger problem to solve and you can get busy working on that!

***

You know what’s cool? I sent a message to Harry with these questions and ideas, and he left me another message clarifying his question and thinking behind it! Plus, we even elaborated further in an email exchange, the gist of which I’ll include here.

***

Harry: Yes, of course, context matters. What I was addressing though, is the fact that in any interaction, there are at least two independent humans involved. I've been very strongly influenced by Jean Moroney's work with Marshall Rosenberg's OFNR process. Perhaps you are familiar?
[Halelly: Yes! Jean Moroney is a friend and was featured on episode 55: How to solve problems faster, make better decisions, and get projects finished with targeted thinking tactics from Jean Moroney but we didn’t discuss her work on Non-violent Communication (by Marshall Rosenberg) as much in that episode.]
Following the acronym, the last letter is for R[equest]. Yet, so often in feedback, D[emand] is what is actually being served. Wrap it in any carbohydrate you want, but it's still bologna as you so accurately described (loved the cotton with needle image in that Feedback Sandwich blog post!).
I was just reading this FastCompany story on Trader Joe's. This quote struck me. The emphasis is mine as it points to that intangible that generates trust.
Almost every manager I ever had somehow made me feel like I could tell them anything, personal or otherwise–even though I didn’t have a lot in common with them, since they were mostly men, mostly white, and mostly older. They did a lot of listening up front and opened up almost every conversation with asking what I think and then responding to what I said. I always felt trusted.
This whole issue around communication and trust is probably particularly significant to me as I've also been exploring "trust" as defined by the fine work of Patrick Lencioni (The Advantage and many other works). He puts it this way:
"vulnerability-based trust as a place where leaders, comfortably and quickly acknowledge, without provocation, their mistakes, weaknesses, failures, and needs for help. They also recognize the strengths of others, even when those strengths exceed their own."
Part of the challenge with feedback is the myriad of human complexities that can derail communication.

Halelly: Thanks for continuing the conversation Harry (and sorry my 90-second time limit cut you off! Oops!)!

Yes, Jean and I discuss her program quite often on our calls. I have not yet had the chance to go through it but it sounds very interesting and well-aligned to what I teach, so I’m glad that it resonates as such with you as well. That’s affirming.

Thanks, too, for sharing the FastCompay quote, I like it! And the Lencioni quote as well. His work is very good, too.

Bottom line, I believe in the Trader Principle (which I described in this blog post) so I don’t know that you could ever truly force someone to hear your feedback. Like I said, if you’re minding your relationship and the feedback is embedded within that greater universe of care and feeding and nurturing, you should not experience rejection. And if you do – seek to learn more about its source.

Well, I’m super glad the technology worked, and I’m also very pleased that you’ve given me your permission to use your sound snippet in this episode!

YOUR TURN:

  1. What do you think about this topic?
     
  2. Would you like to submit a question for a future “Ask Halelly” episode just like Harry did? It’s easy! Just use the voice messaging widget right here on the website to record a short message. And with your permission, I can play your audio on a future Ask Halelly episode!

    But of course you can also send me an email, or a ‘contact us’ form on this site, or a comment-based question, or a tweet…. Whatever you prefer! Just ask!! 😊
     
  3. Also - what other people or topics would you like me to feature on future episodes? Let me know!

RESOURCES:

About Halelly Azulay

Have we met? I'm Halelly Azulay. I'm an author, speaker, facilitator, and leadership development strategist and an expert in leadership, communication skills, and emotional intelligence. I am the author of two books, Employee Development on a Shoestring (ATD Press) and Strength to Strength: How Working from Your Strengths Can Help You Lead a More Fulfilling Life. My books, workshops and retreats build on my 20+ years of professional experience in communication and leadership development in corporate, government, nonprofit and academic organizations.

I am the president of TalentGrow LLC, a consulting company focused on developing leaders and teams, especially for enterprises experiencing explosive growth or expansion. TalentGrow specializes in people leadership skills, which include communication skills, teambuilding, coaching and emotional intelligence. TalentGrow works with all organizational levels, including C-level leaders, frontline managers, and individual contributors.

People hire me to speak at conferences and meetings and to facilitate leadership workshops, but what I love most is to help fast growing organizations create a leadership development strategy and approach.

I'm a contributing author to numerous books, articles and blogs. I was recently described as a “Leadership Development Guru” by TD Magazine. I blog, publish a leadership podcast (um, hello?!), and have a popular free weekly subscription newsletter – so you should definitely sign up at www.tinyurl.com/talentgrow.

transcript:

Announcer: Welcome to the TalentGrow Show, where you can get actionable results-oriented insight and advice on how to take your leadership, communication and people skills to the next level and become the kind of leader people want to follow. And now, your host and leadership development strategist, Halelly Azulay.

Halelly: Welcome back TalentGrowers. This is the second-ever Ask Halelly episode of the TalentGrow Show. I’m Halelly Azulay, your leadership development strategist, here with answers to questions that I get from listeners, from the media, from audience members, from participants in my workshops, about various topics related to leadership, communication, networking and all those things that I talk about with you, about how you can become the kind of leader people actually want to follow. This one came in through the voice mail feature on my website, which I have been encouraging you to use. So today you’ll hear what it sounds like, and of course I always ask for permission to use the sound. So if you want to use that and want to be featured on a future episode of the TalentGrow Show, this is your chance. It’s super easy, anywhere on the TalentGrow.com website, there is a black tab on the right-hand side. You click on that, you can then easily record a question, a comment, anything that you want to record for me. You have to make it short – it’s about 90 seconds or so.

What you’ll hear in this episode is Harry Mullen, who is one of the listeners and also a reader of my blog, responded with a question. The recording thing cut him off and then he recorded a second one, but we also had an email interchange, so this will be an interesting kind of hybrid, where I’ll try to include both his voice and some of the email exchange so that you can get the full gist of the question and the answer. Of course I’ll include it both in written form on the show notes page, as well as in spoken form here if you’re listening to it right now.

Okay, without further ado, here is Harry’s first question. He read a blog post that I had a little while ago that said, avoid the feedback sandwich, and in this particular blog post, I talk about how some people give the advice that I think is very, very wrong advice, that you should sandwich some kind of constructive feedback in between two pieces of bread of positive feedback, to make a feedback sandwich. I think this is very destructive, and of course I explained that in the blog post, so you can check that out. I’ll link to it in the show notes. It’s called, “Don’t serve a feedback sandwich. How to give constructive feedback in a more palatable way.” Harry read that and was responding to it with a follow-up question. This is perfect. It’s exactly what I want. If you have questions from me, I want to know. So here is Harry’s question:

Harry: Hi Halelly, should you ask someone first if it’s okay to give them feedback before giving it? And if so, what should you do if they say ‘No’? Halelly: Interesting problem, huh? Harry, thanks so much for your voice message question and here are my thoughts. I’d want to know more about the relationship to give you the proper advice. For example, if you are the person’s manager, then they kind of can’t refuse your feedback, right? So in that case, if you ask and they say “No”, I’d say something like, “can you elaborate – why not? This is important to your performance. Is it a bad time now? Or is there something else I should know?” You will need to be curious but also to persist to find a way to deliver the feedback, because obviously it’s a role-appropriate and business-imperative. But, if this is someone who does not report to you, maybe a boss, or a peer, or a personal connection, then the story is a bit different since they don’t really HAVE to listen to your feedback. I’d still be curious. Is it the timing? Or is there a history of your feedback being particularly ill-delivered and/or hurtful and that’s why they are refusing it? Or is there low trust in the relationship? Why would they say No? I’d start there, and work on repairing the relationship, trust, and ability to communicate openly. And no, you cannot force them to listen to your feedback, unfortunately, but the ‘good news’ is that you’ve discovered a bigger problem to solve and you can get busy working on that!

You know what’s cool? I sent a message to Harry with these questions and ideas, and he left me another message clarifying his question and thinking behind it! Plus, we even elaborated further in an email exchange, the gist of which I’ll include here.

Harry: Yes, of course, context matters. What I was addressing though, is the fact that in any interaction, there are at least two independent humans involved. I've been very strongly influenced by Jean Moroney's work with Marshall Rosenberg's OFNR process. Perhaps you are familiar? [Halelly: Yes! Jean Moroney is a friend and was featured on episode 55: How to solve problems faster, make better decisions, and get projects finished with targeted thinking tactics from Jean Moroney but we didn’t discuss her work on Non-violent Communication (by Marshall Rosenberg) as much in that episode.] Following the acronym, the last letter is for R[equest]. Yet, so often in feedback, D[emand] is what is actually being served. Wrap it in any carbohydrate you want, but it's still bologna as you so accurately described (loved the cotton with needle image in that Feedback Sandwich blog post!). I was just reading this FastCompany story on Trader Joe's. This quote struck me. The emphasis is mine as it points to that intangible that generates trust. Almost every manager I ever had somehow made me feel like I could tell them anything, personal or otherwise–even though I didn’t have a lot in common with them, since they were mostly men, mostly white, and mostly older. They did a lot of listening up front and opened up almost every conversation with asking what I think and then responding to what I said. I always felt trusted. This whole issue around communication and trust is probably particularly significant to me as I've also been exploring "trust" as defined by the fine work of Patrick Lencioni (The Advantage and many other works). He puts it this way: "vulnerability-based trust as a place where leaders, comfortably and quickly acknowledge, without provocation, their mistakes, weaknesses, failures, and needs for help. They also recognize the strengths of others, even when those strengths exceed their own." Part of the challenge with feedback is the myriad of human complexities that can derail communication. Halelly: Thanks for continuing the conversation Harry (and sorry my 90-second time limit cut you off! Oops!)! Yes, Jean and I discuss her program quite often on our calls. I have not yet had the chance to go through it but it sounds very interesting and well-aligned to what I teach, so I’m glad that it resonates as such with you as well. That’s affirming. Thanks, too, for sharing the FastCompay quote, I like it! And the Lencioni quote as well. His work is very good, too. Bottom line, I believe in the Trader Principle (which I described in this blog post) so I don’t know that you could ever truly force someone to hear your feedback. Like I said, if you’re minding your relationship and the feedback is embedded within that greater universe of care and feeding and nurturing, you should not experience rejection. And if you do – seek to learn more about its source. Well, I’m super glad the technology worked, and I’m also very pleased that you’ve given me your permission to use your sound snippet in this episode! YOUR TURN:

  1. What do you think about this topic?
  2. Would you like to submit a question for a future “Ask Halelly” episode just like Harry did? It’s easy! Just use the voice messaging widget right here on the website to record a short message. And with your permission, I can play your audio on a future Ask Halelly episode!

But of course you can also send me an email, or a ‘contact us’ form on this site, or a comment-based question, or a tweet…. Whatever you prefer! Just ask!! 😊

  1. Also - what other people or topics would you like me to feature on future episodes? Let me know!

I’m Halelly Azulay, your leadership development strategist here on the TalentGrow Show, and I really appreciate your time today. Harry Mullen, thank you so much for your question. And you, thank you for listening. Until the next time, make today great.

Announcer: Thanks for listening to the TalentGrow Show, where we help you develop your talent to become the kind of leader that people want to follow. For more information, visit TalentGrow.com.


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