Have you ever requested feedback only to be afraid to look at the comments you invited? Or have you ever accidentally (or deliberately) been told some feedback about yourself that makes you flush with the horrible recognition that it is you, although through a grotesque, distorting lens: not you as you see you, but you as reflected in a funhouse mirror that feels anything but fun. The bit that makes you go cold is not so much the distortion, but the recognition that this ugly person is unequivocally you.
I read somewhere once that unfettered feedback about how others see us is the best ‘medicine’. It attacks our false image of ourselves and brings us closer to a real view of who we are, warts and all. Rather like a photograph of yourself that shocks you so much that you wish immediately to destroy it, our ugly side is really hard for us to bear. Understanding how others see us, however, is part of the arsenal of tools needed to become more self-aware, more conscious, if you like. Feedback needs careful balancing: the good and the bad, and we need to understand whether we, or the other person, are likely to hear just one aspect or the other, and then moderate for that. It’s a sensitive, touchy subject that can just as easily inflate the ego as crush it. The key here is to get beyond the ego which needs to dominate and control, to the real person underneath who needs to evolve and to give.
So, how does something as deeply personal as that relate to an organisation? Well, organisations are keen on feedback. There is a huge industry in Market Research and Data Science, part of which is trying to understand how products and the businesses that produce them are viewed. Brand too is an essential tool of the trade for business: understanding what an organisation is about – its ‘personality’ if you like, helps drive success. Many organisations use 360s to promote greater self-awareness for employees so as to drive better performance, and they use employee surveys to better understand (and improve) employer brand. You may feel this all has the cynical aim of making more sales, but to whatever end it is used, there is a well-established recognition that the feedback ‘mirror’ is useful for getting ahead in business, if properly deployed.
So how can this be truly useful if organisations just want to use the feedback to drive bigger profits?
Well, many of us are part of an organisation: a bigger body, perhaps a corporation. That bigger body acts in the world on a larger scale than we do individually yet we are part of it. That bigger body may have the same aims as we do as individuals. For example I think it is true to say generally that people want to get on in the world and to feel valued and valuable. Many of us also want to be well paid and doing something of use. For the organisation, those aims translate into wanting to survive and thrive as a business, which means making a profit, and to provide useful goods or services to the world.
Organisations are only us after all!
Wherever you sit in an organisation, get feedback! Use it. Don’t be afraid of it. Make sure it’s honest. Let it hurt a bit but don’t be crushed by it. Bear it. Understand that the feedback is not you, but a helpful mirror. Don’t forget the power of affirmations in steadying yourself (for guidance on affirmations see Louise Hay) and use the awkward snapshot of yourself to step forward into greater consciousness and compassion for yourself and others.
The more self-awareness that we bring into each of our interactions with others every day, the greater the chance that we will develop conscious organisations in the future: organisations that are unable to behave unethically without seeing that ugly distorted mirror and learning from it, aware of their strengths and the great benefit they bring and shaping a future which we all want to be part of.