Feedback is Caring
Let me tell you a story about the first time I learned the true purpose of feedback.
I had just celebrated my one-year anniversary as a Disney Cast Member. I then learned that I had been selected to be one of the new Traditions Trainers and facilitate the 8-hour orientation for all new Cast Members at the Disneyland Resort.
It was a role that came with great responsibility to set the tone for people joining the Disney brand. We went through two straight weeks of training. Each day we worked on something different: learning new parts of the presentation, practicing facilitating with new people, and getting the timing down correctly. On top of all of that, we were also getting to know each other as teammates and building our rapport so we would present well together.
Now, memorizing the script and becoming comfortable with the slides was difficult. However, the most difficult part was constantly improving our presentation skills. With each new part of the training, we would practice, practice, practice. We would constantly provide feedback to each other on how that portion could have gone better. “Your filler word was ‘um,’” “be careful not to talk with your hands too much,” “I see you swaying from side to side at times”, etc. While this could have been diminishing and disappointing to hear, it truly wasn’t. The reason being, we were actually taught how to give great feedback before we started practicing in front of each other.
This was initiated by one of our Disney University managers. During one of the first days of training, that leader sat us down, and with a serious tone said, “feedback is caring.”
Her pause afterwards was equally powerful. I had never thought of feedback as a positive tool until that moment. In my experience, I had only observed negative forms of feedback from leaders to their employees. This instantly changed my mindset from shying away from giving feedback to being thoughtful and brave with my words. It taught me that if I wasn’t giving someone feedback, it meant I didn’t care about them. My leader then went on to give examples of ways to provide feedback without being crushing. She taught us how to share a positive and a critique at the same time to allow the other person to be more open to feedback. We were also taught how to be direct yet kind with our words.
We used this new concept every step of the way along our training journey. We cheered each other on when we practiced. We listened and took notes on how we could be better facilitators. We gave feedback because we truly wanted each other to be successful. I was beginning to see that feedback really could be caring.
As the training went on, that group of facilitators cared more and more for each other. Giving feedback became a crucial part of the relationships we were building.
When we finally presented in front of brand-new Cast Members, the feedback continued. During breaks we would share what was working and share what filler word we just couldn’t drop. My filler word was often “amazing,” or “right!?” We shared feedback because we cared about our co-facilitator’s success as much as our own. We were in it together and our success was intertwined.
I take this concept with me everywhere I go. From the moment my manager said, “feedback is caring,” I learned to feel a sense of ownership in giving feedback. I learned that as a teammate and as a leader, it is my duty to help others be better. If I am not sharing what they’re doing great or how they could improve, it means I don’t care about them. That phrase helped me build courage to share more critical feedback. Especially to those who made me nervous of their reaction, because even the most challenging employees I faced deserved a chance to be better. It didn’t matter if they were going to become defensive, dismissive, and at times disrespectful with their responses to the feedback I shared. What mattered is that I did the right thing and shared an observation on how they could be better. As time went on, and my feedback remained constant, those challenging employees whose reaction I initially feared became less challenging, more open, and more responsive to what I shared. They learned to trust my intent for why I shared what I shared.
This caring became a habit of mine from that time forward. I tell people when they’re doing great, and I tell people when and how they could do better. It’s become a staple of my leadership and a guiding factor in how quickly I build trust with an employee or peer.
I hope this story incites the ability within you to share feedback with others; both good and bad. Care for those you work with, care for their success, and help them be better. Feedback is caring.
To this day, that group of facilitators is near and dear my heart. Being able to build trust in the feedback we would give and receive was monumental to our success in presenting Traditions and becoming lifelong friends.
Until Next Time,