Feedback and the Dignity of Choice

Grace HaoSeason 2Episode 12


Grace Hao is a certified business coach with the Worldwide Association of Business Coaches and co-author of three best-selling books. She has a private practice, She shares her wisdom about the art and gift of feedback, and ways to effectively give and receive it.


Grace Hao

Grace Hao

Grace is grateful to be inspiring leaders locally, nationally, and internationally through her speaking, writing, and educational programs. She is a co-author of several bestselling books, including Build It Big, More Build It Big, and Mom Entrepreneur Extraordinaire.    

Grace is a certified business coach with the Worldwide Association of Business Coaches. She has more than 19 years of experience as a business owner, facilitator, and professional speaker. She owns a private practice at 

She recently received the honor of being named the National Advocate of the Year for Working Mothers and Outstanding Mother of the Year by the American Lung Association. Grace loves being a devoted wife and mother of eight amazing children, and enjoys serving profitable corporations, educators, leading executives, nonprofit organizations, entrepreneurs, and the government. 


Troy Blaser (00:05):
Hello, everyone. Welcome to today's episode of Simply Feedback, the podcast from Learning Bridge. It's great to have you with us today. Our guest today is Grace Hao. Grace is grateful to be inspiring leaders locally, nationally, and internationally through her speaking, writing, and educational programs. She is a co-author of several bestselling books, including Build It Big, More Build It Big, and Mom Entrepreneur Extraordinaire. Grace is a certified business coach with the Worldwide Association of Business Coaches. She has more than 19 years of experience as a business owner, facilitator, and professional speaker. She recently received the honor of being named the National Advocate of the Year for Working Mothers and Outstanding Mother of the Year by the American Lung Association. Grace loves being a devoted wife, mother of eight amazing children, and enjoys serving profitable corporations, educators, leading executives, nonprofit organizations, entrepreneurs, and the government. Grace, welcome to Simply Feedback. It's so good to have you with us today.
Grace Hao (01:10):
Oh my goodness. It's an honor to be here with you, Troy. Thank you for making this possible.
Troy Blaser (01:15):
It's exciting. I'm looking forward to our conversation today. Um, now, you know, some of the guests that come on, I've worked with for a long time, you and I have not yet had the chance to work together. Um, but, uh, so it will be very interesting for me to get to know you a little bit and to, to learn more about, um, about you and about how you use feedback in your work in your life. Um, and, and so I'm excited about that.
Grace Hao (01:41):
Yes. Thank you. I feel the same way I'm looking forward to it and sharing with those that are tuning into the message.
Troy Blaser (01:48):
Absolutely. Well, so one of, one of the questions that we love to start with, um, that is, is a good way to kind of get things kicked off and to start the conversation is, um, to ask you to maybe tell us about a time in your life that somebody gave you feedback. Um, and you know, maybe it was feedback that had an impact on your career and impact on your life or the way that you think about things. Um, what's, what's a moment there where you've received some valuable, uh, feedback?
Grace Hao (02:15):
Oh my goodness. Okay. Well, what a great question. The first thing that came to my mind was an experience I had many years ago with two leading women that I hold in high regard and they, this was in the infancy of our business. And it was at a time where I was preferring to be in the background versus in the forefront. The extent of my speaking was standing up on the stage, welcoming people to the event. And then that was it. It was, that was my, my, my comfort zone per se. And these two women walked up to me and they said, Grace, you know what we're seeing is some selfishness here. And they knew what button to press, Troy. They knew what button to press because I prefer to be generous, um, giving service-oriented and they, they knew they just press the button of Grace where, you know, we're observing some, we're observing some, um, selfishness.
Grace Hao (03:14):
And I said, what do you mean by that? And they said, well, Grace, you're like a funnel with a cork in it. And I said, what do you mean by that? And they said, well, you know, people share things with you. They offer their insights, their wisdom. They're happy to, um, they're happy to offer ideas and share ideas with you and you bottle them up and keep them to yourself. And what I realized in that moment, I said, okay, I'm going to put some thought behind what you just shared with me, this feedback. And at first, I was offended and then I went back and I thought, oh my goodness. You know what I, I am. I said I'm focused on my fear. I'm focused on my discomfort. I'm focused on what, what people will think of me versus focused on adding value and contribution.
Grace Hao (04:03):
So in, in that feedback, it was one of the greatest gifts that they could have given me. It gave me an opportunity to reflect and to realize, oh my goodness, how can I make, how someone will benefit from my vulnerability, my willingness to teach, and to speak the priority versus the temporary fear that I'm feeling in this moment. This is 17 years ago. It transformed my life. Now I speak to audiences. The largest audience I've spoken to was in the Georgia dome nearly 17,000 people. And the smallest audience was an audience of one, of course,
Troy Blaser (04:41):
Just like right now.
Grace Hao (04:42):
Just like right now. Exactly. And, and if I did not receive the gift of that feedback, there would be millions of lives and the lives that I will continue to touch and that I am reaching at this stage that would have never had access to that message.
Grace Hao (04:57):
And I, I mean, my emails, my voicemails, my voice memos, my social media is flooded with feedback from people. This is what you said to me 10 years ago, and this is how it's impacted my life. So am I grateful for that feedback? Absolutely. I see feedback as it, as one of the greatest gifts that we can give another human being. And, and it's what it is, is it's for the person giving feedback that can be uncomfortable. And we're willing though, to work through that temporary discomfort so that a person has the dignity of choice to have access to a possible blind spot to have access to another perspective, another, another expansive way of looking at things. Yeah.
Troy Blaser (05:45):
Yeah. I love how, um, that kind of did mark a turning point for you to really literally change the direction that you were instead of soaking things in, it was more about, okay, what can I give, how can I share what I've learned and to, to help other people? I think that's, that's amazing the other, oh, the other thing I was going to mention about it too, was you, you said, as you were relating that to me, you said, well, at first I was offended, right? When you first received the feedback and there's, I think a lot of us encounter that when we receive feedback that first, that moment of stress response a little bit, that fight or flight, right? Well, oh no. They've said something to me. How am I going to react? Am I going to be, be upset or am I going to run away from it or, or whatever. And you work through that. Uh, and then you're able to really reflect on it and, and understand how valuable that feedback really was.
Grace Hao (06:37):
Oh, yes. And I leaned into it. And now I, I think about that when it's my turn and my opportunity to give feedback and to support someone, to reveal a possible blind spot that could just as it did for me, it, it transformed my life. Now not every piece of feedback is going to transform a life. What we can be clear of is that it's giving a person an option. See, I sometimes what happens is we sweep things under the rug. Oh, it wasn't that bad. Or, oh, you know what? It must be me, or, oh, you know, they'll, they'll work through it. They're in, they're in the learning season. And so we, we make excuses either for ourselves or for the other person. And, until there comes a point where we just can't stand it anymore. And so what happens is, is we can create a dump truck.
Grace Hao (07:30):
We can put a lot of junk in the trunk, right? Oh my goodness. That's a piece of feedback. I'm just not going to say anything. Oh, there's another piece of feedback. I'm just not gonna say anything until that one little thing that takes our dump truck over the edge. And then what do we do? We back the truck up, beep beep beep, beep. And then we lift up the gate and then we drop all the feedback that we've been, some people stockpiling for 20 some years onto the person, this unsuspecting person that had no idea.
Troy Blaser (08:02):
So you're saying there's, there's an art to giving the feedback. Not like you say, not just sweeping it under the rug, but sharing that in a way that is effective to the person receiving it. But, but being sure to share it, like you say.
Grace Hao (08:16):
Oh yes, there's an art to feedback. Absolutely. And I had a woman, actually, one of my clients, she said she was going to make a pretty significant decision around her business. And she said, Grace, I'm going to stop going and attending these particular meetings that I've been going to for years. And I said, well, how would that affect you if you stopped going to those meetings? She said, well, why, you know, I don't think it would affect me that much. And I said, well, what about the people that you lead and work with and collaborate with? How would it affect them? She said, oh, well, they may stop going as well. So I asked her, I said, what is it that is bothering you the most about this, the way this meeting is being handled? And she shared it with me. And then I asked her this key question around feedback.
Grace Hao (09:02):
I said, how aware is the person that's leading these meetings? How aware are they of this frustration? She goes, Grace, I, I don't think that they know. I said, well, what if they did? What, what impact could that have? So she shared with me and I said, and what if they don't ever have the option to know, or to hear that feedback? She goes, well, Grace, it's probably going to stay the same way. And I'm probably going to be the first of many that are going to walk away from that meeting. So she and I rehearsed the feedback. Okay? That's a great aspect of feedback. We don't just dive in, straight into it in an emotional state, and deliver the feedback. It won't come back as compassionate. It will come back as constructive or destructive. Destructive would be the term, anyways. So she, she thought about it.
Grace Hao (10:03):
She pondered it. She wrote out, she gave herself some time to prepare for the conversation. She said, Grace, once she had the conversation, she said, you know, the person that led that meeting, she shared with me, she had a newfound respect for me. She shared with me how grateful she was for my vulnerability and my willingness to offer the feedback. She said, no one had ever mentioned it to her. So therefore she didn't know. The ultimate gift. So sometimes what we're doing in, in our roles is we may be the ones giving the feedback. We may be coaching someone to give the feedback as well because what sometimes happens is people, especially in, in corporate America, who do people go to, they go to their management and then who do they say? What do they say? You handle this, you go give this feedback.
Grace Hao (10:53):
And so then the, the management is like, I, I wasn't privy to this. I'm going in to deliver the message. And who do people want to shoot? They want to shoot the messenger! So here we have got this, we've got this person that's being tasked to give feedback. When in reality, what we've discovered is compassionate feedback is coming from the other person that hasn't made this observation. This is something that I've observed. This is something that I've noticed. Not we, not us, not the world, not the planet, not, not someone brought this to my attention. Then the person's like radar, who brought this to your attention, who brought this to your attention? Versus coaching people up to deliver that feedback or that message in a manner that, um, to give people an opportunity to address it or to reflect upon it.
Troy Blaser (11:50):
Are there ways that we can either, if we're, if we're giving feedback, you mentioned earlier about the natural reaction is to focus on the messenger, right? Who's giving me this feedback. Are there ways that we can, when we're delivering feedback, help avoid that problem? Help someone focus on the message and not on the messenger?
Grace Hao (12:09):
Absolutely. So one thought to consider is, is to preface the conversation and see what is this person's capacity in this moment to receive this message from a compassionate place? Okay. And what is my capacity to give it, see if I, if I'm stressed out, ripping my hair out, I'm angry or upset, or I just want I'm, I'm in a rush, good, good feedback is not a rushed interaction. Great feedback is really slowing down in order to speed up. So one way to transition from the, from this is the message versus the messenger is to really hone in on capacity. Um, what's their capacity to receive it? What's my capacity to give it? Also, um, to hone in on this is, um, this is an opportunity to reflect on recent observations. Okay? Recent, reflect on recent observations, uh, because the worst thing we could do is attack someone's character.
Grace Hao (13:24):
This isn't about character, who they be, this is about a behavior or an approach, or, um, something that could be hindering or, or creating resistance in their progress or advancement in the organization. And so if we can focus on this is, is an opportunity to, to take a look at this and see, how could I see this from a variety of angles? So focusing on the message, I also like to focus on the intention. So my intention for delivering this message. So you're setting the tone for the conversation. So it's not about the messenger. It is about the information, or as, as you do with, you know, Learning Bridge so brilliantly is you it's about the dimension.
Troy Blaser (14:21):
Right. You know, it's um, and all of us are in both positions. Sometimes we're the messenger giving the feedback, but other times we are the person receiving feedback and all of the same things that you've just listed off, focusing on the intention, um, focusing on the behavior and not on the individual. Those are useful for us to keep in mind when we're receiving feedback as well because you know, the person giving us feedback may not have those same tips in mind when they're delivering feedback, they may be coming from a very stressed out place, right. Or they're upset, or they're angry when they're delivering feedback. And, and, uh, so those are all valuable ideas to keep in mind when we're the recipient of the feedback.
Grace Hao (15:03):
Oh yes, one thing you made me think of, Troy, as I was, as you were sharing that you made me think of my husband, who has been a football coach for many years. And, um, oh my goodness. And he's an excellent football coach. And one thing he said is he tells his players, it's not when I'm giving you feedback, that there's meant to be concern, it's when I'm not. That was the, that was such a powerful message that he spoke over his players about. It's not when I'm giving you feedback that there's meant to be a concern. It's when, it's when I'm not. And so I see it as when we are gifting someone feedback. What we're saying is you are valued and valuable. I see you as, as someone that has leadership skills, that has the, I see you as someone that is going to take us from where we are to where we would prefer to be.
Grace Hao (15:57):
This is the reason that we're making this investment in you. So that's my opinion of feedback and that's, and I think sometimes what happens is is people see if we embrace it as constructive criticism, if we look at it as constructive criticism, we'll take it on as constructive criticism. If we embrace in a look at this and say, gosh, this person sees something in me. And that's why they're willing to make the investment in the conversation in the time, the treasure to provide a feedback assessment of sorts, they're seeing something in me. And, and so how can I view this as an opportunity to refine versus this is, this is someone's opinion of me, or they don't like me. Oh, no. Feedback means to me, feedback means they love me enough to say something. I had a great story. I'll share it with you very quickly. I was driving in, uh, I was, I wasn't driving. There was a gentleman that was driving me. I was flying into Phoenix, Arizona for an event. And I, he opens the door, lets me in the car, he gets in, he's like, I just can't take it anymore. I was like, oh, dear, like, uh, please allow me to live and get to my event.
Grace Hao (17:22):
You know that's what I was thinking. I'm like, oh, gracious. He says to me, oh, I just can't take it anymore. I said, oh, I can, I'm sensing some frustration. So I'm thinking I am going to coach this man and live. That's what I was thinking.
Troy Blaser (17:35):
You can apply these great skills to be able to make it to the end of the car ride.
Grace Hao (17:39):
Yes. From the airport to the hotel. Oh, my gracious. So here I am. And I asked him, I said, I can sense some frustration. He said, yes. I just can't take it anymore. And I said, Hmm. He goes, yeah, my wife, she just, she just, I just, I'm done. I'm done. And I said, I can, yeah, I'm hearing that you're done. And he said, yeah. And I, I said, I, I'm, I'm curious, you know, how aware of how aware is she of your frustrations? And he said, well, obviously she doesn't know. And then I asked him, I said, well, huh, I'm curious. You know, how long has she been, she been doing this? He said since we've been married, 21 years, 21 years since we've been married. My next question to him was, and this is what kind of brought him at ease. I asked him, I said, well, I'm wondering what could have been different in your marriage if she would have known. And he just goes, oh, like he was, he, he calmed, he calmed himself down and he really thought about it. And he was like, wow, well, we wouldn't have been going through this for 21 years.
Troy Blaser (19:03):
You know what I'm getting after a few different stories that you've shared is, is not just feedback, but it's broadened out to the idea of communication, effective communication. Um, and, and, you know, you talk about not sweeping that feedback under the rug, or you talking about loading up the dump truck full of feedback, right? But that's, I mean, it's what it's coming back to is communicating. Um, whether it's communicating with a spouse or communicating with a manager or, you know, whoever it is that where that you feel that friction is and, and finding that way to communicate effectively in a way that is not threatening. Um, like we mentioned earlier, talking about the behavior and not attacking the character of the person, right. And, and as we do that, then the question is what could have been different had the communication taken place?
Grace Hao (19:53):
Yes. Oh my goodness. Absolutely. And hindsight is 20/20. So this is where we have an opportunity. Some people say, well, I didn't do it 21 years ago. I said, well, isn't it great that we have today? Isn't it great that you have today? One thought that was coming to my mind was something that my mother taught me years ago. She embraces feedback as do I. And so one thing, whenever we go to an event or we're working with a client, we'll ask them if there were one or two things that I could have adjusted or done differently that would have given you and the people a better result, what would that be? And what I do, and I do this to every event that I go to. What is exciting about this is it gives us an opportunity to make slight tweaks. Notice it's one or two things it's not well, if you got any feedback, you know, and then they come their dump truck and that can be a little, okay, wait a second.
Grace Hao (20:50):
I've got a, I've got, you know, I've got a certain capacity for the feedback. So, this is a gift that what we're doing as leaders is we're saying, I am embracing the possibility that I have not arrived, which I have not. And I'm open to what you are observing that I could, I could take a look at, explore and, and make some adjustments so that as I go forward, I'm refining. See the only people we're competing with really is our best version. Our yesterday's best version of ourselves, that's who we compete with every day. And so if I am receiving feedback, it's like, oh, I have an opportunity to make an adjustment here. Or, oh, that's another way of looking at that. And the more we gather that the more, the sharper we become the iron sharpens iron, share with me what you know, or what you've observed.
Grace Hao (21:46):
And then I'm going to grasp that and place it into my heart pocket. It's you all are not seeing this, but you are, Troy. Grab this, place it in my heart pocket. And I am going to run to my next day or my next call or my next event with that rich insight. So it's not just once every six months or once a year. It is a consistent, it's a consistent request of various people. And imagine if you do that on a consistent basis, who will you be tomorrow as a result of that? Who will you be next week, next month, next year?
Troy Blaser (22:23):
It's really that growth mindset, continuing to improve. I'm not a finished product yet. I will benefit from the feedback that I can get consistently. I think that's fantastic. Grace, it has really been fun to chat with you for a little bit today, um, to get to know you a little bit better. And I, I'm sure that our audience feels the same way. If they're interested in continuing the conversation with you, what should they do?
Grace Hao (22:46):
Sure. So you're welcome to connect with me. So it's or you're welcome to email me, It would be an honor to connect with you and it's been so fun, Troy, thank you for this opportunity.
Troy Blaser (23:04):
It's been wonderful. Thank you so much, Grace.
Grace Hao (23:07):
Yes, until next time.