Humility – A Lesson in Giving and Receiving Feedback

Over the past few weeks I’ve been considering humility.

Specifically, I’ve been considering the impact humility has on those I interact with through my work. Humility plays a vital role in giving and receiving feedback, which in turn sees lasting impact in developing effective relationships, creating psychological safety and building a high performing team culture.

In the world of recruitment, feedback comes hand in hand with every aspect of our job. We are the person to let Talent know why they may not fit a particular position they’ve excitedly applied for, why they haven’t been successful after a lengthy interview process or where they can improve and how to move forward in their job search. As a Temp Specialist, I need to give feedback daily to my temporary Talent who are onsite to ensure they are performing effectively and feel well supported.

We deliver feedback to my clients when their expectations don’t match the market or how an interview process can be honed to more effectively engage candidates. Just as important, it is essential that I receive feedback when a Talent isn’t the right fit, or my understanding of the role is missing the mark to ensure I am working to my highest ability.

What is humility and how is it powerful in delivering and receiving feedback?

In the book, Conscious Business, Fred Kofman wrote the following on humility;

“Ontological humility is the acknowledgement that you do not have a special claim on reality or truth and, that others have equally valid perspectives deserving respect and consideration.

This attitude is opposed to ontological arrogance, which is the claim that your truth is the only truth. Even though it may make sense intellectually that people have different perspectives, most people do not naturally act from this understanding, especially in the midst of disagreement or conflict.”

Humility allows us to consider perspectives and opinions outside of our own. It allows us the ability to stop, both before delivering feedback or after receiving feedback, and ask the right questions of ourselves.

Why do I/they feel this way? Why do they see that situation differently to me? Why do I react this way? How will they take my feedback? What impact will my words have? Why did that upset me? How can we work together to mutual benefit?

When we begin to consider that our criticism or perspective may be wrong, we will approach those conversations from a humble place. When we are delivered feedback we don’t like, we have two options – to react from a place of hurt, denial and anger, or we can choose to open ourselves to better understanding. When we wish to give feedback or challenge someone, we have the opportunity to consider if we are coming from a place of care and value for that person. We cannot deliver effective feedback or challenge someone’s view when we believe ourselves to be above them. For example, I don’t believe I can provide the best service to my Talent if I see myself as superior. If I was to forget that the whole reason my job exists is to support great people find great jobs – then why would I care to deliver good feedback or appreciate their perspective?

How could I match the right person to an opportunity if I don’t care to understand them and learn from them?

Within a workplace, by creating a culture of trust and humility we create a space where people feel empowered to speak out, take a chance or challenge the status quo without fair of punishment or backlash. This is a great article that goes into more detail on Psychological Safety within the workplace and further ways to develop it – I recommend reading.

So what can we do to develop our humility and deliver more effective feedback?

There is no quick fix or shortcut - I try to be more aware of not only my words, but of my thoughts. The only way to truly shift our approach is through a slow and steady learning process – being humble isn’t a light-switch we can just flick and leave on the one time. It’s about consciously switching the light on again and again… and again, until eventually the action presents without thought.

A great tool you can immediately start with in delivering effective feedback is the SBI method; Situation, Behaviour, Impact. This is a great way to consider and share specific situations and behaviours and their impact through open discussion. It allows us to step back from our bias and emotion before we approach the situation.

For me - I’m going to seek out humility by the simple act of listening. And when I inevitably forget to listen, I won’t beat myself up – I’ll just flick that light switch on again and try once more. Written by Phoebe Hamer, Senior Consultant @ Talent Connect Australia

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