HTI Institute co-founder Matt Gould breaks down the psychology behind why we react poorly to feedback, and how to give and receive feedback more gracefully.
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Tim Reitsma You know, I don't like receiving or giving feedback. I asked myself why? And the answer is when I hear the words, "I have to give you feedback", I feel defensive. I get nervous. I feel my adrenaline start pumping. Do you give feedback to your team? Do you have conversations about performance that is objective? On this podcast, I will dive into the value of feedback and how we may want to think a little bit differently about delivering and receiving feedback.
Thanks for tuning in. I'm Tim Reitsma, the resident host of People Managing People. Welcome to the podcast. We're people managing people, and we want to lead and manage better. We're owners, founders, entrepreneurs. We're middle managers. We're team leaders. We're managing people. And yes, we do human resources, but we're not an HR, at least not in the traditional sense.
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Tim Reitsma Matthew Gould, HTI Institute co-founder and co-author of a new book coming out very soon called Leading from Your Heart: The Art of Relationship Based Leadership. He's been on a few episodes now. I call him a resident guest, so you'll hear a lot more from him. And I just love the wisdom and perspective you bring, Matthew. So you're welcome, Matthew.
Matthew Gould Thanks for having me back Tim. It's a pleasure to be a resident host. Now you're the resident host. I am the returning guest. So thanks for having me.
Tim Reitsma Yeah. Yeah, of course. Yeah. It's always a pleasure to have a conversation with you. And, um, but before we get started, can I give you some feedback?
Matthew Gould I'd love it. Yes, please.
Tim Reitsma Well, the feedback I have is around the subject matter of our podcasts. And I keep receiving feedback from listeners on how valuable the words that you bring to our audience are. So it's positive feedback. So thank you. Thank you for your wisdom, your perspective, your examples, and illustrations. And I just can't wait to do more podcasts with you.
Matthew Gould Thanks, Tim. It takes two to make a thing go, right?
Tim Reitsma That's right.
Matthew Gould Can I ask for that a host? And yeah, great to hear that feedback. Thank you.
Tim Reitsma Yeah. So, today's topic is about feedback. And when you first actually proposed this to me. And I thought about it. And I'll be honest, instantly, my shoulders kind of went up and I started thinking about. Okay, well, are we going to just talk about customer feedback and seeking to give me feedback? And I just don't know. I just have this weird reaction to the word "feedback". So let's just define it. What is the feedback?
Matthew Gould Feedback is a gift. What if we were to define feedback as simply a gift? Feedback equals gift.
Tim Reitsma Okay, So, it's a gift. So let's unpack that a little bit.
Matthew Gould Yeah, as a father, as a business owner in a relationship with you. I would like to know how I'm doing in those relationships. And as you mentioned, we've written a book, Lead From Your Heart: The Art of Relationship-Based Leadership, to be in a relationship with you or my wife or my kids or a business partner or a client or anyone, I need feedback. I need to know, is this working? Is this not working? What do we need more of? What do we need less of? And so to me, as a leader, as a father, being in a relationship, I need feedback to understand how is it going. How am I doing?
Tim Reitsma I was just trying to think of an illustration just in my mind of just going through life or, raising kids or in your work and never receiving an input on how things are going. Yeah, I feel that know, we could think it's going great. But in reality, our definition of great doesn't meet the expectations of the task put in front of us. And so I'm curious. So when I hear feedback, I always go negative right away and I don't know why. I tried exploring deep, deep down in my childhood and I can't figure it out. But, when somebody says, hey, I've got some feedback for you, is it always constructive or can it be positive? Like I gave off the beginning here: "I want to give you some feedback. You're doing a great job."
Matthew Gould Yeah. I'll answer that this way. Tim, what if you and I were to remove and our listeners were to remove the adjective that comes before feedback. So your question around constructive or positive, or negative. I need to give you some hard feedback. I need to give you some tough feedback. Or I'm going to give you some constructive feedback. What if we drop the adjective? And just began giving feedback and at the heart of it, it's this concept of improving. Let's get better together. Before COVID there was an opportunity to go to concerts. And I'm not sure the last concert you went to. I'm pretty sure it was similar to the experience I had, which was when you get there early, the band is doing a pre-check. There's a soundcheck. And when there's feedback, actual feedback coming through the mic, they make adjustments. Can you imagine going to your favorite band or your favorite concert? And they didn't do feedback at the beginning. They didn't adjust when they heard the sounds that were coming through the speakers. Can you imagine what that would be like?
Tim Reitsma I'll just be miserable. It makes for a terrible experience.
Matthew Gould It would be so risky, like it would just be risky. There'd be so much risk involved. And so to answer your question around. can it be constructive? Can it be positive? What if we just took those adjectives away? And I encourage people, if you're in a business, it if you're a leader if you're a team member: What if we all removed and I encourage you to remove any adjective that comes before feedback. And then it's just feedback, it's not charged with anything.
Tim Reitsma So basically, we're not pre-charging the potential conversation that's going to happen. Know we're not, causing someone's shoulders to go up or somebody to go, hey, look at me, look at how maybe great I've been doing. But really just getting to the heart of feedback. Hey, I got some feedback for you. And, as I say that I'm going, oh, OK. So, chances are it's going to be negative and maybe it comes up for me, because often in my career if I had feedback, it was around the constructive side. "Hey I've got some feedback for you. this project isn't maybe going the way it should or Our sales numbers aren't where they need to be." And so often it equates to the negative. And, I'm making a broad assumption here.
Matthew Gould Yeah.
Tim Reitsma And but, yeah, what if we started to just kind of rewire our brains to going like feedback as an input. And it could be constructive. It could be positive. We don't know. But it's an input into, how to continue being awesome or how to become more awesome at what we're supposed to be doing.
Matthew Gould Yeah, it's interesting. You say rewire our brains. To me, ego sits in the brain. And so it's negative feedback. I believe that's the ego responding. Oh, it's negative. However, if it was all about improving, growing, and winning, can we improve together? Can we get better together? Can we win together? Can we grow together? I have some feedback in my heart of hearts. I want the feedback. If I would, I would challenge that if we think it's negative, I'd say that we're listening with our ego. What if we moved into our hearts and in the heart of hearts? If we have that spirit to improve, to grow, and to win? Bring on the feedback, Tim, if you and I are on the same team and I miss a shot. And you said you want some feedback? I'm not going to say no.
Tim Reitsma Yeah.
Matthew Gould I'll say yes, please. Yes, please. You might say, well, lift your head up or move your foot to the right of her playing soccer. And I'll say thanks. And on the next play, I'll try to make an adjustment to the feedback you gave me. I think feedback is just a gift. I don't believe when you say negative feedback. I don't understand that anymore. It's just feedback.
Tim Reitsma You know, I was talking with a friend a while ago, and he leads a pretty substantial organization and he is really quick to give feedback and he comes out from a place of love. I know this guy. He's got one of the biggest hearts I know. And he just sees it as, feedback. Hey, I got some feedback on how you did yesterday or how well your message was received. But he also knows that the people on his team who don't process it the way he does. So, this kind of goes into the next question is when somebody calls you a jerk or something mean or something. How do you handle that? knowing that we all process very differently.
Matthew Gould How do I handle it personally?
Tim Reitsma Yeah.
Matthew Gould First of all, thank goodness that I'm getting feedback that I'm coming across as a jerk. Because I'll tell you what if there's no feedback that is so dangerous. I want to know. It means the person cares. So when someone calls me a jerk. And I've been called that. ill say, tell me more. Like tell me more and tell me more. I want to know. It's not my intention to be a jerk. However, if someone calls me one, I must be coming across that way to them. And so where I go to Tim is how I received that is, hey, tell me more. I must be coming across as a jerk. So I agree. I agree that that is my impact. It's not my intention. And so how I respond to that is, tell me more. Let me know. Tell me more. Give me some feedback. The "you are a jerk" is just the headline. It's actually not feedback, it's just the headline. I need to now know: what did I do that is causing them to perceive me as a jerk? I need to know more. You're a jerk is just the headline of the news article. I need the actual details in the feedback.
Tim Reitsma Yeah. Otherwise, it's just its surface. It's potentially an opinion not based on fact or not based on anything. And so I love what you said. it may be the impact, but it's not the intention. And I think that's where it really comes down to. I believe most people in this world mean good. And it's not the intention to cause strife or to upset people or if somebody calls you something mean. It's usually rooted in something deeper than that. But it's not the intention. But yet it does have an impact. So, I recall an incident early on in my career and somebody came into my office and I could tell that their blood was boiling. It came in, shut the door and they let me have it. They just they unleashed. And I wish I could say thanks. Tell me more. But I instantly felt defensive and I needed to defend my character and I unleashed back. This person left my office. I sat there, I went for a walk around the block. I came back in and I apologized for my behavior. I apologized to the people that were around who had to witness that. And I apologized to the person that I had a disagreement with because it wasn't the right way to handle it. It felt like it at the time when you're just seeing red. So if somebody comes in and has some feedback for you and doesn't say, hey, Matthew, I've got some feedback for you. They come in and unleash. Is it appropriate to respond right away? Is it appropriate to say thanks for the input? Can you give me a couple of minutes so I can gain composure? What's your thoughts on that.
Matthew Gould In our book, Lead from Your Heart, Tanya and I write about the four relationship cornerstones and. I'm using these on a regular basis. And when we do consulting and coaching and training with our clients, these are proving to be extremely powerful. And I'll just quickly share them with you. So if someone comes into me steaming and trust me, it happens as a father, it happens in business. It definitely happens. The second cornerstone is called be curious. So I lean into that. I get curious. So I love the expression of it when someone comes in and they're furious. Get curious. Something is that they are infuriated by something you've done or something you're involved with or a circumstance. So rather than get furious back or defensive back leaning into the cornerstone of when someone's furious, get curious is a really powerful way to sit in feedback.
The second cornerstone I lean into a lot is be open to the possibility. It's called be open to possibilities, be open to the possibility that you caused the anger, something you did. Just be open to the possibility that, yeah, you did something or you're involved in something that is causing this person to be red-faced and furious. Just be open to that possibility. Hence, where I love to go is, "Hey, tell me more". The third one I lean into a lot, is just commit to what is, commit to the fact that Tim if you're my leader, and I've done something or a part of something that's failed or it's just causing it to be so mad, rather than get defensive, I lean into the cornerstone of commit to what is. I'm just going to commit to the fact that you're furious. You're mad. You're coming in to give me some feedback. I'm just going to commit to that. And without being condescending or arrogant or anything, I'm gonna say I'm going to let them let it rip.
Tim Reitsma Mm-hmm. It's so good. I just took a pause there because I was thinking of a recent incident with my six-year-old son who gave me some feedback. And I did not like the feedback that he was giving. And, be open to the possibility that I may have caused that anger in him. I feel a little guilty because I did. Right. And so then we have a choice. We can wallow in that and say, man, I failed. I'm terrible. I failed my six-year-old son or my team or whoever or take it's a gift. OK, what can I learn from this? if somebody is giving positive feedback or, there's the adjective again, but feedback, that is that's good. It's OK. that's reassuring. We need to hear that. So why are we so often and again, I'm making a broad assumption. We often focus on things that, hey, here's an opportunity for some improvement versus here's this. Fantastic. Keep doing more of this. Do you see that in your consulting, in the work that you're doing?
Matthew Gould Ask that question one more time.
Tim Reitsma Yeah, it's. Do you see people more focused on that, "constructive feedback" versus "hey, let me give you a positive input."
Matthew Gould Yeah, I see I see an opportunity in the consulting we do and in businesses and families and in relationships in general, I see an opportunity for people to listen and engage in feedback, not with their egos. So when your son—I have kids as well and I can relate to that—we're hurt or we're flattered when we get positive feedback. That's listening with our ego. That's either hurting our ego or fueling our ego. And I see such a great opportunity for us to listen, to improve, listen to feedback in the spirit of, and from your heart to improve. You know my son Tim, he'll say things like, "you're the worst dad ever". And it is his perspective. Feedback is someone's perspective. It doesn't mean it's the truth. To him, it's his truth. I am the worst dad ever. And so my response, it takes muscle. It takes a leadership muscle. To say that's just feeback. OK. He's giving me feedback. That's my son's perspective in the moment. And so when I respond from my heart, I'll say, tell me more. Like, I must be the worst dad ever. What makes me the worst dad ever? I need to know. I want to know. My ego doesn't. My ego would lash back. I don't think lashing back is a leadership maneuver. I don't think it contributes to a relationship. I don't think he'll give me feedback in the future. And as I said earlier, to me, that's the most dangerous situation. When there's silence, and you're not getting feedback, that is very harmful in the future for relationships, for teams, and for performance. Imagine if we could be leaders and teammates where feedback was was just constantly given without the adjective,.
Tim Reitsma Without the adjective, and I think about, organizations that I've been a part of and I've and I've heard of where people are afraid to give feedback. And so you talk behind people's backs. Right? You start eroding that trust by sitting in the cafeteria or sitting, up for lunch somewhere and just saying, OK, can you imagine? Can you believe this person did this or did that instead of confronting it head-on and say, "Hey, can I give you some feedback? What you're doing is maybe inappropriate or is hurting the organization" or, is "What you're doing is great". But if we shy away from giving feedback, we shy away from trust. But on the flip side of that is, for some, it's easy to give feedback, but it's not easy to receive feedback. And this is, I think like you said, is the muscle that we need to train. We need to be able to train ourselves to see it as a gift that it's somebodies perspective. And how we respond is really takes that muscle that you said we need to exercise that new muscle.
Matthew Gould I have to jump then. I am really confused. I am. And I hope this isn't. This is really engaging. I'm confused if people are fearful of feedback. And I'll tell you why. Because if we want to improve. If we have a growth mindset, if we want our relationships to thrive. If we want our teams to be incredibly successful. Help me understand why we would be fearful of feedback, like if that is truly at the heart of hearts, let's get better. Well, I'm confused now at why anyone would be scared of feedback.
Tim Reitsma Yeah
Matthew Gould Because if you don't get feedback, how do you improve?
Tim Reitsma Well, yeah, exactly right. It's if we're afraid to receive that feedback, how do we grow? How do we know that we're onto on track, on task growing, growing ourselves personally and professionally, as spouses, as parents, as who know wherever you are in life without these inputs. Yeah, it's in my opinion, and we may share this opinion, it's impossible to grow. Sure, you can read six books a month on self-leadership and self-improvement. That's great. Now, if you put them into action and they fall completely flat, wouldn't you want to know about that?
Matthew Gould Yeah. And you say fall flat. We all learn to ride a bike. If you know how to ride a bike, you most likely learned by falling flat.
Tim Reitsma Yeah, I'm trying to teach my six-year-old son on how to ride a bike, and he has negotiated his way out every time. He's gonna fall.
Matthew Gould Yeah. And that feedback from riding your bike hurts like it actually physically hurts. When I was a kid, I would I'd skin my knee. If I focus on the hurt, I'm not focused on the feedback. If I focus on what am I trying to do, I'm trying to learn to ride a bike. Then the hurt actually goes away and I go, oh, that feedback was important. Now I know what I need to adjust. I need to adjust my balance. So I think earlier you talked about constructive and positive feedback can hurt. It absolutely can. And that's important. If we're if we want to improve. Focus on the improvement in the feedback, not the hurt.
Tim Reitsma That's a great illustration, and I used to mountain bike quite a bit and mountain bike, like technical downhill and, as more of a hobby to a novice at best. But if I was learning a new section that was rocky and steep and technical. You had a couple options. One is to just get off and walk. Or another option would be, hey, I'm going to ride this section. And if I fall, it's going to hurt. And that might be motivation to figure out how to try to do it a different way. And but without it, if we always took that easy line, we think, well, it's just easier. But we're not growing.
Matthew Gould We're not growing. We're not going from the blue run to the black run. We're not we're not advancing. And some people can give you feedback Tim. It's their perspective. And you say thanks. And you don't make the adjustment that they're suggesting. I do a lot of work and in sales and inspiring sales teams to thrive. And there's often the sales rep who says, my manager is really hard on me or my manager is this or my manager is that. And we don't always have to adjust to the feedback we're given. Because it's just that person's perspective, once again, back to the bike analogy, getting tough feedback —there's an adjective. I've got to remove the adjective myself—getting tough feedback can inspire incredible changes and significant improvements. And so my hope for listeners, my hope for this podcast is that people drop the adjective. They lean into those cornerstones that I spoke about, and they look at the heart of feedback, the heart of feedback is to improve.
Tim Reitsma Mm-hmm. And so this kind of leads me into kind of a it's been top of mind for me as I've facilitated feedback sessions with clients in consulting, as well as when I was in the house in an organization and a model that we came across. That was it's called the SBI model: situation, behavior impact. So basically, it's taken the personal out of feedback. And so what are your thoughts on this model? I'm not sure if you're familiar with it or heard it, but, if we make it about the situation, the behavior and then the impact, the impact that it has on the person giving the feedback. What are your thoughts on these different models?
Matthew Gould I think it's excellent. I'm familiar with it and it truly is focusing on the adjustment to be made. so the action you took your attitude, your behavior, the way you did X, Y, Z. When you focus on the situation and the behavior and the impact, it actually gives someone really clear feedback on what they can twist, what they can tweak, what they can improve on, what they can continue to do. What they can repeat, what they can stop. It's excellent. And feedback is personal. The key is to not take it personally.
Tim Reitsma It's a big difference, isn't it?
Matthew Gould Yeah, it truly is personal. "Tim, I want you to be the best quarterback on the team. I want you to be the best. And so I'm gonna give you some feedback. Here was the situation. Here was how you executed it. And here was the impact. This is why the ball did not receive, was not received by the receiver". So I'm giving you personal feedback. The key is, to not take it personally. Like not to be offended by it, actually be inspired by its.
Tim Reitsma I think you've mentioned this a little bit earlier in the podcast, and we were talking about, feedback and the heart of an individual who's giving feedback and, typically feedback is given because people care and it's not given because they want you to fail. If you're not hearing anything, that's when you should probably get a little nervous. But if it's silent and we don't know how we're doing, we're not hearing from people. That's the scary thing. If we're actually hearing the feedback and saying, hey, I want you to be the best that you can. And so, let's walk through that, and let's talk through that. So I think there's a lot of great content here. And if you're listening or somebody is listening and is going, OK, I need to be giving feedback, maybe we're growing our organization pretty quickly, but we're still, we could be doing more. We could be doing better or we're on track. what's kind of a final thought that you'd want to share with someone listening?
Matthew GouldYeah. Final thought would be if you don't care, you won't share. In other words, if our sons, if our teams, as you and I are leaders, if we don't really care about our team, about our families, we won't share the feedback. We won't give the feedback. And so my encouragement to you and my encouragement to me and to everyone listening is share, share with care, share because you care. Give feedback in such a way that the person says thank you. Even if it's painful, even if it has a little bit of a rub to it, if it's in the spirit of sharing, because you care around our mutual improvement. That would be my final takeaway is share with care. Share because you care and be really, really concerned in your relationships and your business. If people aren't sharing and aren't giving you feedback because it means there's a lack of care.
Tim Reitsma Well, that's fantastic, and I appreciate hearing that. I have always appreciated our conversations, whether they're on podcasts or not. And because it truly tells me that you care and you care for the people that are around you. So thank you for that, Matthew. And, yeah for our listeners. Right. Let's not shy away from feedback either giving it or receiving it and share with those that you care about and help grow your organizations, your teams, and your households.
Matthew Gould Tim, one last thing. I have to throw it in.
Tim Reitsma Yeah Sure.
Matthew Gould You know, if people believe that feedback is a gift. What do you do when you receive a gift? You say thank you. So if feedback truly is a gift. No matter what, kind of feedback you're getting, it's just feedback. Imagine an environment, imagine a family. Imagine a team where every time the feedback was given. The response was, thank you so much.
Tim Reitsma Wow. I'm going to practice that today because I'm sure I will be getting feedback from my family throughout the day. Which means that they care. But it also reminds me that I need to control how I receive it and react to it. So your feedback is a gift. And I challenge our listeners to think about it that way. To receive it as a gift. So, as we close, Matthew, you've got a book coming out. When is it coming out and where could people find it?
Matthew Gould It's coming out at the end of May. It was co-written with Tanya Schecter. And it's you can find it on Amazon. It will be available on Kindle. And right now, if you go to htiinstitute.com/resources, you can download the first two chapters for free.
Tim Reitsma Wow, that's a great gift to the community. And I have to say, I did download it the first two chapters and I'm almost through it. And it's such a great read and it's such an easy read and very practical. So I look forward to reading the rest of the book. And then I'll have you and Tanya on the podcast to do a full episode just focused on that book. So. Thank you.
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