How to Get the Most Out of Feedback

One of the benefits of my business is the feedback loop available from our live events. I usually know exactly how the customer felt about the experience. Today, it comes both in real time (#feedback) and often in a more formal evaluation.

This weekend, I reviewed a conference evaluation sent by a meeting planner for a recent event where I delivered the closing keynote. In addition to the feedback on my session, I also read through the general comments intended for the conference planning committee. I couldn’t help but pause and reflect on the contradiction in the following two comments, listed in succession on the evaluation:
The conference auditorium was too cold.
The conference auditorium was too hot.

Generally speaking, I consider feedback to be an incredible gift and a beneficial business tool. I also think it’s important to put it in perspective. While this feedback was intended to be constructive, the conference planning committee can’t do much with it. They have to accept that they aren’t going to please everyone.

In my work I receive all kinds of interesting feedback, some of it actually having nothing to do with my work at all. I’ve received feedback (and criticism) on my choice in clothes, grooming, likeness, accent and even how long I’ve kept my hand in my pocket (I promise the hand in the pocket move wasn’t rehearsed).

I take the opportunity to thoroughly review every ounce of feedback that is available to me. I’ve also learned to consider the following factors to make sure I understand and maximize the way I put it into practice:

  • The Source: Is the source trusted? Respected? Anonymous? Expert? Paid? Objective? The market you want to move? Feedback is valuable but it doesn’t need to be treated equally. It’s always wise to consider the source.
  • The Intent: Is the feedback authentically trying to help? Hurt? Inform? The intent matters. If my ideas don’t resonate or add value, I really want to know and understand how I can improve. If you take serious issue with the fact I didn’t shave this morning, it’s on you.
  • The Context: Is the commentary consistent? It’s easy to overreact to an isolated critique or an outlier comment. But, sometimes it might be better to recognize that you just can’t please everyone. One person is too hot when someone else is too cold.
  • The Quality: Is the feedback offering insight you can leverage to improve? After all, isn’t that really the point?

Recently we received a little unsolicited advice from a prospective customer who visited our website:
“Your website has a lot of great information however I think it could be organized a little differently. Your brand is powerful because when you present you are clear, focused, and the message is simple. This is rare. Your site is not an optimal reflection of who you are. I know it’s impossible to accomplish but a good start may be to simplify the landing page. Less is always more powerful.”

I made a point to let her know how much I appreciated that she took the time to offer a little insight. We happen to be in the middle of a website upgrade and her feedback was valuable. That little exchange opened up a dialogue where I was able to get her expanded thinking, which we actually included as a discussion point during our project planning. Home run!

It’s important to remember that when it comes to feedback it is not the critic that counts, it’s the person who cares.

I don’t ignore feedback. I also don’t take it personally. Being objective and having a system to categorize constructive criticism, advice and input helps me determine the feedback that I can use. I hope these feedback guidelines help you too.

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