9 Lives Changed by Feedback

Season 3Episode 8


In this special episode of Simply Feedback we share the responses of 9 of our previous guests to the question: Can you tell us about a time when you received feedback that affected you in a profound way?


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In this special episode of Simply Feedback, we share the responses of 9 of our previous guests to the question: Can you tell us about a time when you received feedback that affected you in a profound way?

Listen to the stories of Glade Holman, Sarah Guay, Deanne Kissinger, Patricia Gorton, Morgan Massie, Dr. Rob Fazio, Carol Vallone Mitchell, Dr. Kathy Burkgren, and Steve Van Valin.


Troy Blaser: 0:05
Hello and welcome to Simply Feedback, the podcast hosted by LearningBridge. I’m your host, Troy Blaser. We have a special episode today where we’re going to share some highlights from some of our past episodes. So, if you’re a regular listener you’ve probably noticed that when we begin each episode we like to ask all of our guests the same question. That is: Can you tell us about a time when you received feedback that affected you in a profound way or maybe it marked a turning point in your career? And as we have recorded each episode we really have received some fantastic stories about times when some of our guests have received feedback. So today we will share the responses of nine of our previous guests. You can hear their story as a highlight and then of course we will link to all of the original interviews in the show notes as well if you want to listen to more of that particular episode.
Troy Blaser: 1:05
We will start off with Glade Holman. Glade is the founder of LearningBridge and shares about a time when he received feedback that wasn’t necessarily bad, but different from what he was expecting, and he tells us how it affected him, and how he handled it.
Glade Holman: 1:23
And back when I was 19, I was kind of in a teaching setting where I thought I was pretty darn good, even as a 19-year-old. I thought I really had things mastered, I was well prepared.
Troy Blaser: 1:32
I think every 19 year old feels that way. Right?
Glade Holman: 1:35
Yeah. You know, I could do this, you know, I'm awesome at this. And I could really help other people become better at it. And I invested a lot of time in my teenage mind to be really excellent at this kind of teaching environment. And part of it, we did as a role play and then we're supposed to get feedback. And so my whole expectation was I'm going to role play and boy, am I going to get glowing feedback on how insightful I am and how skilled I am and how appropriately I've applied all the models and all the techniques. And so I was very excited for the feedback because I thought it was going to confirm my learning and my preparedness and everything that I invested into it. And so I did it and I've got, you can imagine I've got my smile on my face of like, I've just done so great. And then the first bit of feedback wasn't so like, Hey, that was awesome. You did great. Wow. You're so good. How did, you're just brand new? You know, that's what I was expecting to hear.
Troy Blaser: 2:22
Right, yeah.
Glade Holman: 2:23
And that's not what I heard. And what I heard wasn't really even harsh. It was just, Hey, here's a tip, here's a tip. But that "here's a tip, here's a tip, here's a tip," just chipped away at this vision I had of who I was as a 19-year-old. And all of a sudden where I thought feedback was going to be a glorious, uplifting experience to me, all of a sudden it was one that knocked me down. And I mean, it wasn't knocked me down. It just, it got me to reappraise the view of what I looked like, because now I had another vantage point that someone else shared with me. And so at first it was kind of hard for me not to react and push it away and say, well, yeah, don't you know how good I am? If you knew how good I am, you know, you'd know your feedback was off the mark. And it maybe wasn't that bad, but that's kind of what's processing in my head. But I remember it so well because of that expectation I had, and it didn't meet the expectation that I had in my head of what I was going to receive, but that experience turned me into, oh my goodness. I need feedback. If I don't get feedback, I'm going to continue to think I'm wonderful when I might not be. And boy, I better figure that out. And so I learned that I didn't have to accept, even in that experience, all the feedback the individual gave me because that individual's maybe 20 and I was 19. And you know, there's something about difference of a perspective, but I keyed into, okay, there's a place for feedback in me. I gotta get rid of my assumptions about how good I think I am, or, and it wasn't even just thinking how good I am. How appropriate I was and how well I'd applied the model, how well I'd done something and then hear about it from someone else's perspective and then make adjustments. So that was very powerful to the fact that I can still remember it now, where I was sitting, the temperature of the room, you know, where his chair was, where my chair was, that kind of thing.
Troy Blaser: 4:16
Isn't that funny?
Glade Holman: 4:17
But it stuck with me. It really did.
Troy Blaser: 4:20
So, that was Glade Holman talking about what he learned from receiving some unexpected feedback.
Troy Blaser: 4:26
Next, we will hear from Sarah Guay, who also received some difficult feedback early in her career. Sarah has had over 20 years of experience in training and development and is currently the CEO of HEMIC (Hawaii Employers Mutual Insurance Company). So here is Sarah’s story.
Sarah Guay: 4:48
I think in my own experience, I can think of an example. I was working as a member of an executive team. I was by far the most junior member of that executive team and was still fairly early in my career. This particular team was a very high performing hard driving team and so when you're surrounded by folks like that, I think you tend to believe that that's the way you are working as well and in the absence of feedback, I just believed that that was the way I was performing as well and frankly didn't have much feedback to the contrary. So I was working on a project with my manager and we just were missing left and right. I would do my best work to come up with what I thought he wanted. We'd meet on it and it was one of those kinds of weird nebulous, this isn't quite right conversations. And I would walk away thinking, okay, I know I didn't hit the mark, but I don't know what the mark is. And this went on for probably two weeks. And finally I just kept getting more and more and more frustrated. And I think when that happens to employees, they just get discouraged and kind of give up a little bit. So I did that. And in my frustration I said to him very candidly, I said, I need feedback from you. I need to understand where I'm performing well and where I'm missing because clearly I'm missing. And so he said, okay, I understand and I appreciate your request . Let's meet tomorrow to talk about the feedback. So I went into the meeting with him, prepared to hear some pretty direct feedback. And in that conversation, the first red flag was he pulled open his notes and he had three pages.
Troy Blaser: 6:16
Oh, wow.
Sarah Guay: 6:17
Yes. That was my response. I thought, Oh my goodness, here we go. And he just proceeded to unload pages of feedback almost from day one of places that I had missed the mark. And just sort of the laundry list, right?
Troy Blaser: 6:33
Sarah Guay: 6:34
And in the moment I can remember so clearly thinking how painful it was. And I remember getting really defensive and really angry and probably not hearing a good portion of it because I was just in it, right? But in hindsight, not too long after that, I really was able to take that experience. And there were two things that I drew from it. One was some advice that a friend of mine gave to me afterwards and he said, at least now you have clear sight . And I thought, that is so true. The last two years of working in this role, we haven't been aligned, right? And so at least now I have clarity that's super helpful and a great place to start. And then the second thing that come out of that was a commitment, a fundamental commitment that I made in my own career that I will never have an employee experience that that feeling of pages of feedback given to them only because they asked for it when they're not going to be able to hear it. And so that really, really was a fundamental shift in my career and really my commitment to feedback and the importance of it for employees. There's a quote and I'll butcher it, but it's something about you shouldn't worry about when I'm giving you feedback, you should worry when I stop giving you feedback. In other words, if I stop giving you the feedback, that's when I've given up and and I've just made a commitment that I'm just not going to be that kind of leader.
Troy Blaser: 8:03
Now, we will hear from Deanne Kissinger who shares a story similar to Sarah’s. She also talks about a time when the feedback she received was delivered in an unexpected and unhelpful way, and what she learned from that. Deanne has over 20 years of experience in HR, Talent Management, and Leadership Development, and is currently a Global Talent Management Executive at Solvay.
Deanne Kissinger: 8:28
You know, I've asked for a lot of feedback over the years and there was one
Troy Blaser: 8:32
That's brave of you .
Deanne Kissinger: 8:33
Yes. Yes, but you'll understand why, when I tell you this story. So , there was one that stuck out above all the other feedback sessions that I'd had, and it actually happened 20 years ago in May this year. So you can imagine how impactful it was for me to still remember it. I'd gone into a performance review with my manager and he provided me with some feedback and I was completely shocked. Gobsmacked. Had no idea, couldn't comprehend what he was telling me. And I won't go into the feedback itself because it's not really the feedback that caused as much impact as the fact that it had shocked me. And that I had no idea. And so that's not right in my opinion, someone should never go into a performance review and not have an idea of how it's going to go. So I knew right then and there that I was not going to let that happen to myself or to any of my team if I ever , you know, managed. And I think that actually put me on a trajectory towards learning and leadership development. I've always been really passionate about that, but I think it totally solidified it for me and it shaped my career from that moment on.
Troy Blaser: 9:45
Our next clip is from Patricia Gorton, Co-Founder of Green Mesa Consulting, a women-owned consulting firm. Tricia talks about how feedback can be helpful in showing us how the way others perceive us may not align with how we believe we come across. Listen to her experience and hear how she was changed because of it.
Patricia Gorton: 10:06
It's the not too recent past where I was a new CHRO in an organization. It was COVID and crisis time. And there were a lot of fires to put out. And I got feedback from my manager, the CHRO, so I was a CHRO of a region and she was the CHRO of the whole organization. And she gave me feedback and I will call this, this was a, I remember this feedback because it was a turning point. It hit me in many ways and I will call it making noise. That when I was in crisis mode, I would go into a reaction where I reached out to a lot of stakeholders. I was, I thought I was gathering information, you know, that would be useful to the problems I would in turn solve. But I believe that the way I did it, maybe the number of stakeholders that I approached created a lot of noise that got back to her. And I have to say that this was, it was one of those things where we know in all the work we've done together around leadership three sixties, is that perception that I was unaware of that to me, I was going out to a bunch of stakeholders getting good information and didn't realize that, that, again, that brilliant sort of what she said to me, you know, you make a lot of noise. People tend to know you're in crisis mode. And so that was really valuable because I did not understand that perception at all. And by the way later, I learned that it's, it's, it's a way that women may use their networks in a way that isn't as beneficial to them as, as it could be. So I feel like I learned from that a couple of things. One is just, you know, that perception matters and that is your brand. And certainly as a new CHRO in a crisis mode, that that's something that I had to manage very quickly. The second is that I could reflect more than go into reaction mode. That really I could take a little bit more stock myself before I reached out. And then the third, is I actually learned the importance of external networks that I actually didn't have to go inside all the time that I could seek alternative perspectives that were outside the organization. And that, that could give me some of the confidence I needed, ideas I needed and also not create that noise inside the organization. So it was, I think, really valuable. I took it hard initially and then upon reflection, it has made a lot of sense to me. And that is something that I think has impacted, a bit my style and how I, how I react.
Troy Blaser: 12:59
Next, we’ll listen to Morgan Massie, a consultant with Avion Consulting. Morgan shares some interesting feedback she received from her father and the lessons that she learned from it. Listen to her talk about the importance of carving our own paths in life.
Morgan Massie: 13:14
So there's a bit of feedback that came from my dad. He's a retired federal judge, and I remember sitting in this courtroom when I was little and helping him fill the water glasses during his hearings. And when it was time for me to go to college, there was a bit , I'll say a lot of self-induced pressure for me to follow in his footsteps. And so I had to eventually break it to him that this path just wasn't for me. And I wanted to do something different and I was terrified. After I told him my thoughts and my concerns, he gave me a bit of feedback I'll never forget. He said even if you take the same path as your good old dad, you're never going to achieve the same success. And I thought, great dad, thanks for the vote of confidence. And I said what do you mean? What do you mean? And he said, you know, because you, Morgan, you were born with your own set of skills and strengths and you have to carve out your own path. You can never travel in someone else's. And then I realized at that point, I kind of sunk down in my chair. That's just what I've been doing. Unconsciously molding myself into someone else that I wasn't just to please someone. And that was a slap in the face. It was really harsh feedback for me. And it woke me up, an awakening of sorts throughout the rest of my college career. And then carry it with me today. And I love how now I can weave that into the work that I do and encourage the folks that I work with to really discover your own path to success. What worked for one leader is not gonna work for you. And here's why, and here's how, what you could do could be just as, or better than what has been done in the past and really to carve out what success means to you.
Troy Blaser: 14:54
Now we will hear from Dr. Rob Fazio, the Managing Partner at OnPoint Advising. He is also the author of two books, Simple is the New Smart, and BullyProof. Rob talks about a time in his life when he was receiving a lot of feedback, and how he learned and grew from the sometimes-difficult criticisms.
Rob Fazio: 15:12
Yes. This first story that comes to mind for me is when I was in grad school and just like any good psychology program, you get tons of feedback and back then it was via either cassette recordings or VHS tapes. And you would bring your recordings of therapy sessions to your supervisor and advisor and they would go through it with you. So the first thing was, I remember going into one of my supervisor's offices with a stack of tapes and I had a big smile on my face and it was all ready and I put one in, I hit play and he goes, "Go back to your office and get the other tapes." I'm like, "What are you , what are you talking about?" And he's like, "I don't want Rob Fazio's highlight reels. Like I want the real stuff. Like I want to see when you're struggling and what you're doing." So that was my first experience, which I did everything I could to try to avoid feedback, right? And then when I started getting into a groove, same supervisor. His name is Dr. McCreary . He's looking at my tapes and doing therapy and this is probably maybe like a year or so in. And he goes, "Fazio, what in the world are you doing?" And then it's like, "What, what do you mean? I'm making sure I'm linking cognitive behavioral theories to the psycho dynamic process and I'm making sure I'm being a scientist practitioner." And he's like, "You're, you're terrible." He's like, "You are not having a human conversation. From now on start off, like you're Rob Fazio like how you talk to people. It made so much sense because I was so much time in my head. I was losing what I really enjoyed, which was the helping people and having that connection. So that really changed my perspective on how I work with people.
Troy Blaser: 16:59
Our next clip is from Carol Vallone Mitchell Ph.D, Co-Founder of Talent Strategy Partners and author of the Amazon bestselling book, Breaking Through “Bitch”: How Women Can Shatter Stereotypes and Lead Fearlessly. Carol talks specifically about her experience as a woman and her experience with women. She shares how women can underestimate themselves and what they can do to excel.
Carol Vallone Mitchell: 17:23
Yeah, and it actually goes back a long time. It was before I had moved into human resources. I was working in a biotechnology group and doing very well. I mean we got a patent for the work that we were doing. It was great. So anyway, it was about the time that I did want to go back to graduate school. And quite frankly, I was trying to decide whether I wanted to go into molecular biology or whether I wanted to follow another passion of mine, which was psychology. And so as a part of that journey to exploring that and then also applying to various universities, I really got cold feet because I didn't do that well as an undergraduate grade-wise, like a B minus average student. Right. And I thought they'll never let me in. And so I had a boss at the time who said, don't do that to yourself, you know, look at all that you've done and you're successful and they're going to take that into account. And that's not such a bad grade average anyway. And so anyway, yeah. And I was like, okay, I'll do this. And then I looked at a program and it said, you had to be a full time student, which of course I couldn't afford at the time. And same boss said, you know, don't assume, don't follow the rules. You should not just assume that you should go and find out more and talk to them about it. Rules are not always, you know, a hard and fast. Yeah. So I did that and that's, you know, I got accepted into the University of Pennsylvania. I was still working full time at DuPont and I was taking classes as well, so I mean like a full time load. So the reason it was important Troy was because for me is because in my study of issues that women have as far as advancement and development, women tend to look at the rules and follow their roles. Men will look at them a little bit differently. So I'm sure you've heard the saying that a job is open and a guy has 20% of the skill that's needed and figures out, you know, I can do this and learn the rest. A woman has 80% of the skill base and says, Oh, I'm not, you know, I'm not ready to do that job. And just, just, you know, shut down that opportunity before they even explored it. So that's why that feedback was important. And I still have to remind myself sometimes, you know, there are other ways as women that we will shut ourselves down saying I'm not good enough in some way, shape or form. And it's usually a very high bar that women will set for themselves. So it's really important I think to not have such a high bar that, that they shut themselves out from opportunities that would be really, that they would be successful and they would get a lot out of.
Troy Blaser: 20:30
Next, we have Dr. Kathy Burkgren, AVP of Organizational Development and Effectiveness at Cornell University, and a certified Presence Based Coach and ICF ACC accredited executive coach. Kathy talks about her experience needing to give feedback when it was very uncomfortable for her. She talks about how she received feedback that helped her be better at giving feedback in a way that is more productive for both her as the giver and for the feedback recipient.
Dr. Kathryn Burkgren: 20:58
Absolutely. I have given and received a lot of feedback over the years, which is a good thing. So I have given and received a lot of feedback over the years. And my example is related to giving feedback around 1995, I was in a new role as an executive staff assistant to the then vice president for facilities in campus services and the director of administration at Cornell University. And I was sharing something with the director of administration that led her to ask me, have you given the person feedback? And my response was not yet. And so she asked me if I would go give the person feedback and then come back and I didn't have to report everything that was shared. I just needed to report how it went. Interestingly enough, I went and I gave the feedback and I came back and I was sharing that with her. And she said to me, was it resolved? And so her feedback to me when my answer was no, was, I want you to go back, reshare the feedback, give it directly, and honestly, and then come back and make sure the issue is resolved before you come back. And I did that. And the reason I shared that is because it taught me multiple things. It taught me that I needed to be much better at giving and receiving feedback. I was still early on in my career and I had meandered around in giving the feedback and that wasn't helpful. I didn't want to hurt the person. So I wasn't clear, I wasn't concise. I wasn't direct. And I could just remember all the things that I learned through that process. And also if you're familiar with Myers-Briggs type indicator, I'm an ENFP, or I'm an extrovert, intuitive, feeling perceiver. And so giving feedback was not a comfortable thing for me, that became a learned skill. And so I think for anybody giving and receiving feedback it's to know that you can learn that skill. And the main reason was I didn't want to hurt people. I didn't want to feel badly myself. I didn't want people to be upset with me. And so clear feedback is so important and I really have had to perfect it over time. And so when teaching about giving and receiving, receiving feedback, now, I often use the scene from the movie Moneyball with Brad Pitt. When Brad Pitt is playing Billy Beane and he tells his colleague to tell him, let a player go. And I don't remember the colleague's name or the actor's name. Anyway, the colleague has to tell him he's being transferred to another team. And that young colleague is nervous. They're unsure what to say. And Brad Pitt is Billy Beane. So something like, say as little as possible in other words, say it clearly and succinctly and don't meander around. And I always use that phrase from the movie. I don't know if it's exact , I'm not giving an exact quote, but basically say as little as possible, be clear, be direct, be concise, be candid, and it will all work out all right . And if you do it because you want the person to grow and develop, they will feel that. If you're giving feedback because you want to be right and you want them to be wrong, the feedback won't land well.
Troy Blaser: 24:26
Dr. Kathryn Burkgren: 24:27
So it's about being clear and direct and truly meaning what you're saying behind the feedback.
Troy Blaser: 24:31
And to end today, we have Steve Van Valin, the founder and CEO of Culturology. Steve shares some feedback he received that made a big impact in his life, and that I think is a great reminder for all of us.
Steve Van Valin: 24:45
Well, I was very fortunate when I started into leadership development and culture shaping and change, one of the things that I had to go through was a certification process to speak publicly to a group. And I had this amazing coach from Senn Delaney Leadership out in California, a guy named Barry. And I was about to go on f or my very first session to be certified in front of a group of about 45 people. And I don't know if you've ever seen the statistics, but the number one fear for people is death by fire, followed by number 2 public speaking. And I was really, it wasn't that I was scared. I was just really nervous and worried that it was going to come off in any kind of way at all. And before I walked up on the stage there, Barry grabbed me and he said, "Look, I just want you to know that people are rooting for you." And what he meant by that was that they are not going to judge you like who is this guy? And does he have any credibility? And he just slurred a word there or said something that I don't agree with. They're actually want you to be good. And they want you to be entertaining. They want you to be fun. They want you to poke them in their cerebral cortex a little bit and they're rooting for you to do so. And so when I really got ahold of that idea, it sort of let me unleash my comfort level. I'm an introvert, but I found that even in front of a group, I could just sort of be myself realizing in having conference that people rooting for me. And I think just having that coaching right from the start in my whole process of getting in front of people and working with leaders, that was an enormous advice. I'm forever indebted to a wonderful man, Barry, who gave me that, that tip, that people are rooting for you.
Troy Blaser: 26:42
What a great reminder that people are rooting for you. Well, that concludes this special episode of Simply Feedback. We hope you enjoyed it. And we hope these experiences help you receive feedback graciously and act on it visibly. We’re rooting for you!