“Can I give you some feedback?”

A beekeeper asked this question during an apprenticeship test for a journeyman (the second level) to become a master beekeeper. She asked this a couple of times and took the time to explain and demonstrate a different way of doing things while providing the reasoning behind her suggestions. The soon-to-be journeyman took in the feedback with keen interest and grace. My family and I had the honor of watching this while on a family getaway to Colorado. I was struck by how natural and helpful the whole process was. 

It was a unique experience to witness an apprenticeship test for a masterclass. Aside from learning much about bees, I was taken up by the apprenticeship and feedback process. 

We tend to fuss a lot over giving people feedback. Of course, some managers do not have trouble with it at all. Still, it has been my experience, while running professional development and leadership workshops, that feedback is a challenging thing for many—not just for new managers but for those that are well established in the industry. 

Why do supervisors struggle with giving feedback?

  • Fear of how employees will respond to feedback
  • The concern of being misunderstood
  • Not wanting to “hurt” others’ feelings
  • Lack confidence
  • Don’t know how to do so
  • Concern that feedback is perceived as negative and unhelpful
  • Think the receiver can’t handle the feedback

Indeed, there is always the chance that someone may receive the information as criticism, fault-finding, disciplinary, or even fear it will hurt their chances of promotion.

Which of the above reasons resonates most with you when you have held back from giving candid feedback?

There are many lessons from the bee apprenticeship experience that we can all learn from in feedback sessions:

  • On-time and on the spot. Often, we leave the feedback for an annual performance review and pile it all on this one moment. While there are pros of having a scheduled defining moment for a review, one con is time. It is hard to listen to suggestions when examples are given from situations that happened months before. Moreover, it is hard to hear a barrage of recommendations from multiple experiences all at once. Thus, it is much more manageable to tune in and be present with one thing at a time. I appreciated the timeliness of the feedback given during the apprenticeship test. It was right then and there where the lesson could be absorbed best.
  • Ask if you can give feedback. I love this simple introduction. Instead of just jumping in, the beekeeper set it up first. This provides the receiver with a few seconds to attend to what is being offered.
  • Clearly explain the reason behind the suggestion. The beekeeper provided clear explanations of the alternative suggested way of doing things. She was not negative and she did not reprimand or put anyone down. She focused on the alternative recommended process and explanation. She gave a reason for the suggestion.
  • Coaching tone. Avoid a paternalistic or mocking tone. The beekeeper’s style made a difference. She naturally introduced the suggestion, and it did not feel forced, painful, or contrived.

What about if you are the one receiving feedback?

Simply say thank you. Avoid getting defensive and consider it. You can put it away or disagree with it, but do at least consider it. There is usually an element of truth in the feedback we are given so you will need to dance with your ego a bit to make room for the suggestions provided. 

What are some helpful feedback suggestions you have received over the years?

Did you know BridgesXL offers professional development and leadership workshops and programs? We have had the opportunity to deliver content to a wide range of organizations including fortune 500 companies, small business enterprises, not-for-profit organizations, and civic institutions. Check out our website www.bridgesxl.com to learn more or contact us at omaira@bridgesxl.com.

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