Feedback is the Breakfast of Champions

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Feedback is the Breakfast of Champions. What does that mean exactly? Feedback is defined as information about reactions to a product, a person’s performance of a task, etc., used as a basis for improvement.

Feedback is an important part of our lives at work, in our business and at home. It helps us course correct to improve our performance in whatever we are doing. At the end of my live training events we have a team out brief and do what’s known in the military as an “After Action Report or Review (AAR).”

The AAR is an important part of the event to find out what worked, what didn’t and what can be improved on for the future. It is done immediately after the event while things are fresh in people’s minds. High performing teams include the AAR in everything they do.

A great example of that is shown in this video about the Navy’s Blue Angels:

Notice a couple things they said. They leave rank at the door. Everyone is an equal member of the team basically and they stay there for hours sometimes to hash out details.

While feedback is an important part of the process and high performing teams have a great system for this, there are problems with a feedback system when it’s used with the general population. As a speaker, author and business owner, I have personally experienced some of these.

The following are recommendations for ways to not use feedback.

1. Negatively affecting someone or someone’s business by a negative review:

This is prevalent in our media and people cite the first amendment as being able to do it for Freedom of Speech. People will jump on sites like Yelp when something has made them mad at a business and leave a scathing review. While there are times when maybe that is necessary, I believe those times are few and far between. Those types of things can be handled individually at the business without having to negatively affect the person’s business or reputation.

Instead of confronting the situation, people will hide behind an online review and lash out their anger. Note: I’m not referring to anything where discrimination, abuse or violence has occurred. This is for that situation where maybe the food wasn’t good that day or the service could use a little improvement or you thought the book you bought on Amazon wasn’t that great. Give that kind of feedback directly, don’t do it online where it stays forever and becomes public opinion.

I published my Think Like A Negotiator book 3 years ago and it’s an easy to understand book of strategies, especially for someone who fears or doesn’t understand negotiation. I didn’t write it for the Harvard Law Attorney, although there are tips they could use.

In 2014, the following review was left about my book on Amazon:

Good thing it was only .99 cents. This is an amateur self-help book that goes over what is, to me, common sense.

In 2015, this review was left:

It’s a very affordable book, but the lessons learned could be distilled into a few paragraphs, rather than a whole book. Mostly common sense stuff you can find on any decent blog.

While I don’t believe this to be true, even if it were true, what purpose does it serve to leave such a damaging review? I had a total of 6 reviews, 4 of them positive. I didn’t pay attention to this until recently and was shocked when I saw these. Neither one of these people thought about how this might negatively affect my business and reputation. Anyone who considers this book and see’s these reviews will think it’s horrible based on these 2 reviews. Unfortunately, we thrive on the negative and ignore the positive. I did post rebuttal comments and have sold 3,000 of these at events where I’ve been a speaker but that doesn’t show here.

If you really didn’t like the book that you read, that’s fine, send the author a personal note. Don’t negatively affect their ability to get more business from those that would like the book by leaving such a negative review. You may make yourself feel good because you think you “told the truth” but in the end, you could turn away people that may benefit that aren’t at your level.

2. Feedback Forms

As a speaker, I work hard to prepare for my speaking engagements. I do a significant amount of training and I tailor the presentation to the audience I’m speaking to. Unfortunately, not everyone will like your style and some people will go as far to mark you the lowest score because they did not like you or your style. It usually has nothing to do with you as a speaker, your content or your presentation. They simply didn’t like it. Many organizations won’t bring you back to speak unless you get a near perfect score.

What that bad review does is skew the score for the rest of audience that did like the presentation and negatively affects my ability to come back or get work in the future. Was I really that bad that you had to leave that kind of a review? Doubtful based on results from the rest of the feedback but in the end, that causes problems for a speaker when you have a need to tear them down.

I had one person give me negative feedback because I mentioned military members and “left out” spouses. The example was not to slight spouses, it was to show affinity to military members for relationship building because there is commonality and affinity with me for someone who has served in the military. I don’t have that same commonality with spouse because I didn’t serve in that capacity. That feedback made it look as though I was slighting a group by not mentioning them which wasn’t the intention. How am I supposed to recover from that? Included every group in my presentation? That will change the meaning of that point in the talk which will make no sense. Do I have to police every word to make sure I don’t offend someone? I do that but it’s impossible to do that and think you aren’t going to offend someone.

We live in a time where people will severely dissect every word that’s said and make their own meaning to it. We are meaning making machines and should consider that maybe the speaker wasn’t intending to slight anyone or say the wrong thing. Too many times our words are dissected and twisted to have other meaning. It happens in the media and online too many times. Please consider this the next time you hear a speaker. That’s how they earn their living. Do you really want to take away that ability for them by your bad review because you simply didn’t like it?

3. Social Media Rants, Insults or Negativity

How many times have you seen a social media rant that made you feel sick inside? I have seen plenty of this during the presidential elections. It’s gotten worse as time has gone on. I have removed my connection with many people on social media based on the hate and negativity they spewed and even continued to spew after the election. Being passionate about your position is ok. Spewing poisonous hate is not. Whether I agreed with their position or not was beside the point.

People wouldn’t say to someone’s face what they post online. I don’t think our founding father’s intended freedom of speech to mean destruction by words. However, people have taken it to the extreme and if you don’t agree with a certain position, you will be ostracized.

Recently someone I highly respect went on a rant to make a point about a lot of false teachers that are out there. I wholeheartedly agree with that point. However, they put down organizations and achievements of people in some organizations that this person didn’t agree with. I happen to be a part of one of those organizations and achieved something within one that they claimed was worthless. I didn’t agree with that and don’t think it’s necessary to tear others down to make a point.

The bottom line on feedback is that it is important. We need it to improve and be the best that we can be in whatever we are doing. A great way to give positive feedback is the “sandwich method.” Tell them positive things up front, make positive suggestions for improvement and end with reiterating the positive things they do.

Of course, there are times when you need to give direction on the spot. It would be a good idea to revisit those directions later to ensure it was clearly understood – in other words do an AAR.

Using feedback as a means of constant and never ending improvement is a way to ensure that you and/or your team are performing at the highest level of excellence and whatever you produce will have outstanding results.

Eldonna Lewis Fernandez
Eldonna Lewis Fernandez

Veteran negotiation and contracts expert Eldonna Lewis-Fernandez, author of “Think Like a Negotiator,” has over 30 years of experience crafting killer deals both stateside and internationally, many in excess of $100 million. She’s currently the CEO of Dynamic Vision International — a specialized consulting and training firm that helps individuals hone negotiation skills — as well as a nationally regarded keynote speaker, session leader and panelist on the Art of Negotiation. Eldonna may be reached online at www.EldonnaLewisFernandez.com

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