I have just returned from the annual family ski holiday. For the first time, I was totally out-skied by my children (age 6 and 8), and found that by lunchtime, or if I was lucky, early afternoon, my legs and feet ached so much I had to stop. I felt I was missing out.
I decided that I must be doing something wrong, so I asked my other half to be honest, and tell me what it might be. At first, he said I was fine, a bit out of practice and just needed a little more confidence. Now there was some truth to those statements, but I knew in my heart that I wasn’t ski-ing as well as I should and could. So I asked again, and begged him to be honest.
Now, it’s hard to ask for feedback, even from someone whose opinion you value and trust. I knew that I might not like what I heard. Of course, giving honest feedback can be hard too, and it was clear from my other half’s face that he had something to say, but wasn’t sure how to put it nicely.
“You’re a bit stiff” he said with reluctance. Not useful feedback, and easy to get defensive about, but I remembered that I had asked for this, so probed a little.
“What do you mean?” I asked.
“Well, when you come down the hill, you don’t move the top half of your body”
OK, this was a little more specific, but I still didn’t get it.
“We were told not to try and steer with our shoulders” I said, half in explanation and half in defence.
“Yes, but if you are to stay facing down the hill, you need to twist a little at your waist don’t you”.
And with that statement, the one small piece of advice that proved incredibly helpful was given. I wasn’t facing down the hill…I was facing whichever direction my skis were pointing.
So, with this valuable piece of feedback in mind, I began to practice keeping myself facing down the hill and I saw an improvement almost immediately. It’s not that I hadn’t been told that when I had lessons, it’s just that after a significant gap between ski holidays, I had simply forgotten it.
It’s like feedback itself...one great piece of advice can make the whole thing so much easier. In my opinion, the single most important things to remember when giving feedback is to ‘tackle the ball, not the player’ – focussing on specific behaviour makes the feedback so much easier to give and receive.
So, whilst I’m still a long way from being a great skier, I’m slightly better than I was, thanks to some great feedback and useful advice. It made me think…how many opportunities to improve are missed at work because we don’t ask for or give feedback? How many skills do we forget because we don’t use them often enough, and don’t ask for help? If you need help to give great feedback, our free key points sheet may be of interest.
Otherwise, why not take time out this week to ask for (or offer) some feedback, and see what a difference it can make to your performance. Remember “if you always do what you’ve always done, you always get what you’ve always got”.
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