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Have you been receiving your feedbacks?

PATRICK AIR FORCE BASE, Fla. -- In June, our Air Force senior leaders announced the implementation of the new Airman Comprehensive Assessment worksheet. The new forms were designed to significantly enhance communication in the feedback process between supervisors and subordinates.

Our Chief of Staff highlighted this in a memo to Airmen, by stating, "Proper feedback is the most important element of a strong evaluation system...Airmen must know what we expect of them...If we fail at feedback, we fail our Airmen."

Since then, I've had the opportunity to brief more than 300 Airmen about the forms. During the sessions, there was a lot of discussion on the proper administration of feedback, but not once did we discuss how subordinates should receive feedback. Feedback sessions, as we know, can be awkward, uncomfortable and even tense.

Fortunately, I came across a book entitled, Thanks For the Feedback by Douglas Stone and Sheila Heen, which shed light on this topic. The authors addressed the tension that exists between giving and receiving feedback, by noting, "We know that feedback is essential for professional development and healthy relationships--but we dread it and often dismiss it. That's because receiving feedback sits at the junction of two conflicting human desires; we want to learn and grow but we also want to be accepted and respected just as we are now."

Receiving feedback doesn't mean agreeing with everything that is said, rather, it is engaging in the conversation skillfully and making thoughtful choices about how we use the information. It's about managing our emotional triggers so that we can understand what our raters tell us and be open to see ourselves in new ways.

Treating feedback as something not just to be endured, but something to be actively sought can have a profound impact. Stone and Heen found in their research that even seeking negative feedback is associated with higher performance ratings.

When you're open to feedback, your working relationships have more trust and more humor. You collaborate more productively and solve problems more easily. So, again, I ask: have you been "receiving" your feedbacks?