The Mix Tape: Ep. 4 — Feedback Practices Worth Singing About

When it's time to give or receive feedback, people's moods turn from upbeat to uncomfortable fast. Can feedback at work be transformed for the better? In this episode, Mix Talent's Sara Shondrick talks with Brodie Riordan to find out. Riordan is an I/O (Industrial Organizational) Psychologist and executive coach with a passion for helping others achieve their full potential. She's a self-proclaimed "Feedback Zealot" and author of the book "Feedback Fundamentals and Evidence-Based Best Practices."

Transcription

Unison:

Welcome to The Mix Tape.

Valerie McCandlish:

I’m Valerie.

Natalie Taylor:

And I’m Natalie.

Valerie McCandlish:

Welcome back to another episode. We’re so glad to have you here. I just want to start off by saying, Natalie, I’ve got some feedback for you.

Natalie Taylor:

Oh, great.

Valerie McCandlish:

Actually, it’s for both of us.

Natalie Taylor:

Oh, okay. Even better.

Valerie McCandlish:

And that’s that I was listening to some of our early episodes, which are all… they’re all so good in their own ways, but I can see such a difference between when we first started, and we’re kind of getting the feel for this, and you get more comfortable as to go along. But it’s nice to go back and see how you’ve improved and how we’ve improved since we first started to where we are now and getting going with our second season.

Natalie Taylor:

I love that. That was happy feedback.

Valerie McCandlish:

It was happy feedback. I love that you assumed that it was going to be the worst.

Natalie Taylor:

That’s how we’re trained, unfortunately.

Valerie McCandlish:

I know, but I think we’re doing a better job of being more welcoming and receptive to feedback, whether it’s going to be positive or negative. And usually, it is going to be for the better.

Natalie Taylor:

Right. Exactly, Val. That’s the point of it all, and that is the point of our guest today, Brodie Riordan. She is an IO psychologist and executive coach, and an author, and is a friend of Mix. She recently wrote a blog series on feedback that ties into 80 songs, which is the most perfect tie in to The Mix Tape. So she will dive deeper into that on this episode with some great tips, and tricks, and information on feedback. Hope you enjoy.

Sara Shondrick:

Hi, everyone. It’s Sara Shondrick, and I’m excited today to interview Brodie. Brodie, would you mind introducing yourself to our listeners?

Brodie Riordan:

Absolutely, Sara. Thank you so much for having me here. I’m always excited to have an opportunity to catch up with you. I’m Brodie Riordan. I’m an industrial organizational psychologist, executive coach author, and part-time professor at Georgetown University.

Sara Shondrick:

Thank you so much. It is great to have you here. Today, we’re talking about feedback, which isn’t really one of those topics that most people want to think about. What got you so interested in feedback?

Brodie Riordan:

Sara, that is so true. Feedback makes most people really uncomfortable and has such a negative connotation for people. I’m kind of a feedback zealot. I love talking about it and studying it, and learning about it, which often strikes people as a little odd. And I had the exact same experience.

Brodie Riordan:

So when I was in the first year of my PhD at the University of Akron, I went and sat down in my PHD advisor’s office, Dr. Paul Levy, and we were talking about what I would focus on in my research. And I had all these crazy ideas that were all over the place. And he was like, “Well, I study feedback.” I thought to myself, “Oh, my God, that sounds awful. What a dry sort of micro-little niche thing to be focused on?”

Brodie Riordan:

But it didn’t take long for me to become a convert. The thing that I think is so interesting about feedback… Well, there are two things, really. One is, for me, personally, I feel like feedback helps me orient myself in the world. Without feedback, I feel like I’m a little bit in a vacuum or an echo chamber. I don’t know if I’m having the impact that I’m intending to. I don’t know how other people are experiencing me. I don’t know if the things that I’m doing are effective, if I’m moving closer to my goals. Feedback helps me gauge all of those things.

Brodie Riordan:

One of the reasons I really love to study it and do consulting work on it, and talk about it, and write about it is because I think it’s amazing how little tweaks in the way that we give feedback can make or break the conversation. One little change in how you frame the feedback that you provide can make it much easier for the other person to hear and then actually do something with.

Sara Shondrick:

Yeah, that’s pretty amazing. I found that, too, in my own work. Consulting with different employees, I provide a lot of feedback. And you’re right, that difference in terms of one little word or the way that you start the conversation can make a huge difference.

Sara Shondrick:

I agree with you. I think in the absence of feedback, we end up making stories about what we think the other person thought, or how we think we did. It can be really helpful to calibrate by getting other people’s perspectives on it.

Brodie Riordan:

So Sara, you obviously use feedback in your own work. I know that you’re also an IO psychologist, and so you have a deep background in it. Why is this such an important topic for you?

Sara Shondrick:

Yeah, I really value feedback because, to your point, most of my work involves feedback at some level, whether it’s leading a team or coaching leaders in terms of how they can make their approach even more effective, but I’ve also found it’s kind of difficult. Because I have a lot of empathy, and it’s almost like I do too good of a job sometimes of putting my feet in other people’s shoes. It’s easy for me to feel that pain of the feedback when I’m even giving it.

Sara Shondrick:

So I’m always trying to avoid putting my foot in my mouth, but at the same time, it doesn’t at me I’m always good at it. There’s been plenty of times where people give me feedback and I feel that emotional reaction come up where I’m not a Saint in always receiving feedback. In short, even though feedback’s so critical to my work, it also still trips me up some time.

Sara Shondrick:

That’s why I really loved your recent blog series on feedback practices we’re singing about, where you tied 80 songs with feedback tips. You kicked off that series with a real jam of a tune, I’m Only Human by The Human League. Can you tell us why you picked that song?

Brodie Riordan:

Absolutely. So I’m going to actually answer a different question first. So why did I write a series of blog posts tying feedback best practices to 80 songs? It might sound like I have way too much free time on my hands. But my goal was to pick songs that stick in your head, then try to get people to associate those with some feedback best practices that I want to stick in their head. That was my goal.

Brodie Riordan:

You’re right, I started with, I’m Only Human by The Human League. My intent with that one in my first blog post was to remind people that anytime we are giving or receiving feedback, first things first, we are human. We are all hardwired to have strong, immediate emotional reactions when we receive feedback. That’s more common when we get negative feedback, feedback that tells us there’s something that we could do differently or better, or we haven’t quite reached our goal yet.

Brodie Riordan:

I have found, in my consulting work, that reminding people that they are hardwired to have that fast powerful emotional reaction sort of normalizes their experience a little bit, and they don’t feel as uncomfortable, they don’t feel that pressure to have something brilliant to say right away in response to the feedback. And they feel permission to let themselves experience those emotions, sit with them for a little while, and then figure out later what to do with the feedback once they’ve had time to process it.

Sara Shondrick:

Yeah. I love that. I was actually just giving a 360 degree feedback session to one of my clients this morning. One of the things I told him at the end of the session was, “Hey, set this feedback aside for a few days. Take the weekend, get some distance between yourself,” because it’s so hard to overcome those initial emotional reactions when you’re getting hit with something that you weren’t expecting, and yet a little bit of time away from it can allow you to have some distance and a fresh perspective to actually listen to the message rather than trying to combat that negative emotion.

Brodie Riordan:

Absolutely. We probably are not going to make very good decisions about feedback if we’re trying to interpret it and take action on it while we’re emotionally charged. And you’re right, putting a little bit of space and time into the equation allows us to think more deeply about it and make more rational choices about what we want to do, especially when you get something like a 360, which for some people, is the most feedback they’ve ever gotten at once in their entire lives. It can be really overwhelming.

Sara Shondrick:

100%. Yeah. But it doesn’t make even one piece of feedback easier to receive sometimes either. Just because it’s less feedback, it’s not always easy. Sometimes people don’t always even respond well to positive feedback if they’re very humble and it’s hard for them to accept that as well. So I think when people think about tips for giving feedback, I might add that when someone says, “I want to give you some feedback,” it’s easy to feel under pressure, just like David Bowie in Quicksand.

Brodie Riordan:

We’re going to have to expand that playlist, Sara. I love it. That’s a good one to include.

Sara Shondrick:

Definitely. You might even be asking yourself, “Should I stay or should I go?” Just like The Clash.

Brodie Riordan:

I think you’re actually much better at this than I am.

Sara Shondrick:

I don’t know about that. I think I just do really actually have too much free time on my hand.

Brodie Riordan:

Well, if it’s helpful, I’d be happy to share a few of the tips that I included in the blog. My songs might not be quite as catchy as the ones that you’re listing, but we can give it a shot.

Sara Shondrick:

Well, I definitely disagree. I think you have a pretty good taste in music, so maybe we can start with some tricks for receiving feedback.

Brodie Riordan:

Absolutely. One thing I’ve found in my work is that a lot of organizations, when they’re trying to upskill their employees on feedback, they overindex on training people on how to give feedback more effectively, and neglect the other side of the equation on how to be a better feedback recipient. So I’ll share three things with you, and I’ll tie back to the songs that I chose.

Brodie Riordan:

So the first one, Ms. Whitney Houston, I get so emotional. And this ties back to what we were just talking about about I’m only human. Recognizing that you are hardwired to have that initial emotional reaction to feedback and knowing that you don’t have to do something in that moment can be really empowering and freeing. And again, normalized for people if they’re having a strong, emotional reaction in response to feedback.

Brodie Riordan:

Sara, I love your point, that people have emotional reactions in response to positive feedback sometimes, too, especially if it’s given in a way that’s not totally effective. So if you get praise in front of other people, you might be extremely uncomfortable. You might become very self-conscious and have a strong, emotional reaction. And in a moment like that, it’s fine to just say, “Thank you.” Let those emotions pass and figure out what you want to do with it later.

Brodie Riordan:

Also, a lot of people are really lazy when it comes to giving positive feedback. They say things like, “You’re awesome. You’re brilliant. You’re amazing,” which really isn’t helpful. So people might have a little bit of an uncomfortable emotional reaction to that. After that’s passed, they might be able to ask a question that gives them a little bit more information like, “Well, thank you for saying I’m amazing. What exactly was it that I did that was so effective?”

Brodie Riordan:

That gets to another one of my tips. There’s actually not a song on the playlist for this one. Maybe this is something that I need to address. But when you receive feedback, taking ownership for your experience. I’ve heard from so many people, over the years, that they have almost like a victim mindset about feedback. They feel like it’s happening to them. But feedback should be a dialogue, and it should be a collaborative conversation.

Brodie Riordan:

So if you find yourself on the receiving end of feedback, a few things to note, one, you don’t have to take the feedback at face value. If someone gives you feedback that is not specific, it’s not behavioral, it’s not especially helpful or clear, ask a question to draw more out of that person. Chances are, if they’re putting themselves in the position of being uncomfortable and sharing feedback with you, they have good intentions and they want to help you, but they might not be that skilled at delivering it.

Brodie Riordan:

So really owning your experience and say, “Okay, I want to hear what this person has to say. Let me ask a question to see if they can give me an example or some more specifics.” So owning your experience. Sara, what song could we use for that? Any ideas?

Sara Shondrick:

Ooh, you’re putting me on the spot here. I’m not sure. I think maybe we need to ask our listeners and get some feedback on that.

Brodie Riordan:

Well, and also, if we’re talking about asking open-ended questions, the Spice Girls are always really good for “Tell me what you want, what you really, really want.” What do you really want me to do differently next time? So maybe we’ll go with that one.

Sara Shondrick:

I love it.

Brodie Riordan:

Now, the third tip that I’ll share for receiving feedback, this isn’t actually an ’80 song, so I’m violating my own principles of the playlist. But from The Rolling Stones, Time is on My Side, or Time is on Your Side, depending on how you want to think about it. And this pertains to those emotions again. It’s okay when you receive feedback to take a little bit of time to think about it, and I encourage you to be really transparent with the person who’s providing you feedback. It’s fine to say something like, “I’m having a lot of emotions in response to the feedback you share. Is it okay if I take a day or two to think about it, and then let’s have a follow-up conversation about what to do next?”

Brodie Riordan:

So really, giving yourself that time to go through all the stages of processing feedback, the initial reaction, being able to think mindfully and deliberately about it, seeing what questions you have, what’s not clear. And then ultimately, deciding what you want to do.

Sara Shondrick:

I love that. Thank you so much. A lot of your points here go back to that point that when you get feedback, your flight or fight response kicks right in, and it’s so hard for you to overcome that. You have to just let it be and allow the time for those initial emotional reactions to pass. And if you try to fight through, likely you’re not going to be that effective and you might miss hearing the message.

Brodie Riordan:

Absolutely.

Sara Shondrick:

Yeah. I think your tips in terms of pausing after you get the feedback to allow that time to really settle and think about it, and truly process it can make you so much more effective at it.

Brodie Riordan:

Yeah. And not feeling pressure to have a smart response in the moment. It’s okay if you need to think about it and come back to the other person later.

Sara Shondrick:

Yeah. I love your tip in terms of just saying, “Thank you. I’ll give that some thought. Let me get back to you in a few days.” It allows you to not feel pressured to come up with a polished perfect answer right on the spot.

Brodie Riordan:

Exactly.

Sara Shondrick:

Very cool. Well, so that’s all fine and game for getting feedback. What about if somebody wants to give somebody else feedback, what can they do to ensure it lands better?

Brodie Riordan:

Sara, this was a tough one for me, because I have a whole laundry list of things that people can do to be better at providing feedback. But I picked my top three, and I’m going to tie them back to the playlist again. So the first one, Don’t You Forget About Me by Simple Minds, great song from The Breakfast Club soundtrack.

Brodie Riordan:

Now, this one, I tied this to the tip of making sure your feedback always focuses on behavior, never on the person. And really, the song lyrics have absolutely nothing to do with that tip. The reason I chose that song is because I think this is the single most important thing that you can do to give more effective feedback. And so I want you to not forget about this song. So don’t you forget about giving feedback that focuses on behavior.

Brodie Riordan:

What that means is, instead of saying something like, “You are unreliable. You are always late. You are amazing,” you challenge yourself as the feedback provider to be really specific about what exactly it was that person did or didn’t do. So if I’m saying, “You are always late,” I might push myself to say, “You were 20 minutes late to our last three team meetings.” Small difference there, right?

Brodie Riordan:

But instead of making a sweeping generalization and labeling the person and saying, “You are unreliable, or you are always late,” I’m saying, these are three specific behaviors that I saw. It makes it much easier for the person to hear the feedback, they’re much less likely to get defensive. And it actually helps them do something with it, because you’re telling them what exactly their behavior was.

Sara Shondrick:

I love that tip, because you’re right. I think if you are making those person-based inferences, it’s a lot harder for people to really be able to accept the feedback, listen to it. Whereas if you make it specific about the behavior and something that is readily observable, it makes it a much easier conversation for everyone to have.

Brodie Riordan:

And ultimately, the reason we give feedback is because we want people to show some different behavior in the future. And so by focusing our feedback on behavior, it’s so much easier to translate into future behavior. If we make the feedback on the person as a person, not only does it feel like a character attack, and people can feel judged, and evaluated, and defensive, but also it adds one extra step for them in translating that feedback into the behavior.

Sara Shondrick:

So keep it easy, keep it focused on behaviors. That’s awesome. What other tips do you have for us?

Brodie Riordan:

Well, this actually leads into my second one, which comes from the brilliant words of Paula Abdul, Straight Up Now Tell Me. This is all about making your feedback specific and evidence based. I’ll actually lump a few more things in there. You also want it to be direct and to the point. The more that you talk around things or speak in generalities when providing feedback, the harder it is for other person to accept and understand.

Brodie Riordan:

So sometimes the best feedback is very straightforward, “Sara, you were 20 minutes late to our last three team meetings.” And that’s fine. That is clear, it’s behavior focused, it’s specific, it’s evidence based. These are things that I could see with my own eyes. I’m not making inferences or assumptions about why you were late or judgements about what your intentions are with our team. So straight up now tell me, be clear and to the point.

Brodie Riordan:

And another rule that I like to use here is, think ahead of time what you want to say, say it and stop talking. I see a lot of people get themselves into trouble by talking too much and the message gets lost.

Sara Shondrick:

That’s great. So Straight Up Now Tell Me. I think that that point begs the question, how do you feel about the feedback sandwich?

Brodie Riordan:

I love it when I’m asked this question. Well, the first thing I’ll say is, I have a lot of empathy and understanding for people who use the feedback sandwich, which is when you ultimately want to share a piece of negative feedback, but you sugar coat it and wrap it into positive statements.

Brodie Riordan:

For a long time, organizations actually taught this as a feedback best practice, like you were softening the blow. But the reality is, the message gets lost. It becomes very unclear for people. They feel confused about like, “Okay, well, did I do something wrong? What is the real issue here?” What I think is one of the saddest things about the feedback sandwich is that it conditions people to expect to hear something negative every time they hear something positive, which is just such a wasted opportunity of sharing positive feedback with someone. We want that to feel good. We want people to feel appreciated and have clarity on their strengths, not just like they’re waiting for the other shoe to drop.

Sara Shondrick:

Yeah. That makes a ton of sense, because it can feel really disingenuous when you’ve been conditioned to expect this feedback sandwich. And so when people give you positive feedback, it’s almost like, “Okay, now tell me what the critical feedback is that you’re about to tell me, because we both know it’s coming.” So I really love this approach of think ahead, give the feedback, and then stop talking.

Brodie Riordan:

Yes. And Sara, that’s actually a perfect segue to the third tip that I want to share. And this is a band that I know you and I have a shared affection for, Depeche Mode. And the song is Enjoy the Silence.

Brodie Riordan:

And what I mean by this is, don’t be afraid to pause. Don’t be afraid of silence in a feedback conversation. If you share a piece of feedback with someone, it’s okay to pause and give them a moment to process what they just heard. Think about how they want to respond, or if they want to ask a question.

Brodie Riordan:

As I mentioned a minute ago, a lot of people get themselves into trouble because they’re uncomfortable giving feedback, and they just sort of talk themselves into a hole. And they don’t leave space for the other person to contribute. It turns into a monologue rather than a dialogue. So embrace that silence, enjoy that silence, like our good friends, Depeche Mode, say, and give the other person some space to weigh in.

Sara Shondrick:

Yeah. I really love that tip. I find that those moments of silence can be some of the most powerful in a coaching conversation, because you’re giving the other person the chance to actually think about it. And oftentimes, if you wait long enough, they’re going to say something really powerful that’s either a good question to clarify what you mean by it, or some type of insight that drives further understanding in terms of that behavior.

Brodie Riordan:

Yes, absolutely. A lot of people will feel uncomfortable with it and they feel pressured to fill that space. But one way to reframe it for yourself is, if you feel like you need to fill that space, remember that you’re actually taking the space away from the other person.

Sara Shondrick:

Yeah. I love that. The silence also helps to prevent you from trying to connect the dots and draw inferences in terms of why that behavior is happening. So it can allow you to have some humility, listening to, understand what’s driving that person’s behavior? What’s really going on? Maybe there’s something else that you’re not even aware of that’s causing that person act that way.

Brodie Riordan:

Absolutely. Sara, you’re highlighting the importance of making feedback a dialogue, not something that you check off a list. I heavily discourage people from providing drive-by feedback, which is where you just drop it on someone and then go about your day, and leave them to figure out what to do with it.

Brodie Riordan:

If you have really good feedback conversations, it’s a great way to strengthen a relationship and build trust. And typically, if there’s someone who you’re sharing feedback with, it’s probably not some random person who you’re having one-off interaction with. You probably have a working relationship, and so you want to make sure that you’re treating a feedback exchange as an investment in that relationship going forward.

Sara Shondrick:

That’s really great, Brodie. I know that there’s been some research and some focus lately on forward-looking feedback. Mix talent, actually, is part of our performance management approach. We use forward-looking feedback, which instead of talking about what happened in the past and that meeting that you totally bombed last week, it talks about how you can focus on creating better results in the future by modifying your approach. Tell us what’s going on in the literature, in your opinion, on forward-looking feedback.

Brodie Riordan:

Absolutely. A few of our good University of Akron friends, who I’ve been doing some work on this with, Ariel Roberts, Jason Dowling, Mix’s own Ali O’Malley and Paul Levy. The philosophy that we have behind our work is, feedback is, by definition, backward looking. And what can make it hard to hear is that there’s nothing you can do about it. That thing is in the past, it’s too late to go back and change what has already happened.

Brodie Riordan:

But by putting a forward-looking lens on the conversation, you give people a chance to think about what they want to do differently next time, and to redeem themselves from that past behavior. There are lot of different perspectives on this. Marshall Goldsmith talks about this all the time. He calls it feed forward, which I’m not a big fan of that word.

Brodie Riordan:

I like forward-looking feedback, because you’re still giving the feedback and talking about the thing that happened in the past, and using that as a data point. But then you flip the conversation to the future and say, “Okay, if you could rewind time and do this all over again, what would you do differently? Or if you were in this situation again next week, how would you handle it differently that time?”

Brodie Riordan:

So you can do a few things here. You can ask a coaching question and help the other person process the feedback, and think about what they want to do with it. And you can also set an expectation or say what you think better looks like next time. So if you are having a conversation with a direct report, they might need some clarity on what better looks like. This is an appropriate way to share it and give them a chance to redeem themselves in the future.

Sara Shondrick:

Those are all great points. So, I really love these tips, Brodie. I love the way, if I may give you some feedback, that you’ve really centered your tips in the academic literature to help to inform one’s day-to-day practice. As I look at your background, it’s clear that you’ve been able to a balance your approach in terms of having one foot in academia and one foot in the consulting world, the applied world. How do you find that feedback shows up in your world?

Brodie Riordan:

Oh, that’s a great question. How does feedback show up in my world? So when I was in graduate school, it became clear to me that we had these three options for careers. You could go into academia, you could be a consultant, or you could work in-house and organization. And I was like, “Well, I like all three. I want to be able to do all of them.”

Brodie Riordan:

So I’ve sort of finagled a way to do that. So right now, I have my own consulting practice. Previously, I was at McKinsey and Proctor & Gamble in-house. And then I teach part-time at Georgetown. I’ve also taught at University of Maryland and a few other places.

Brodie Riordan:

To me, it’s really important because the foot that I have in the applied world allows me to see the realistic application of the research that we do and of the academic side, but also having a foot in academia allows me to continue to do research on my own, to stay connected to the science and what’s happening. I feel like that gives me fresh ideas and also some credibility in the applied work that I’m doing.

Brodie Riordan:

But the really honest answer, Sara, is I just really like all of them, and I’m sometimes bad at making decisions. So I’ve just tried to find a way to do them all.

Sara Shondrick:

Yeah. It sounds like you’re a little sadistic maybe, or maybe you have just figured out some secret to life that we would all benefit from in terms of doing all that. So just to summarize, in terms of receiving feedback, it sounds like pausing after you get the feedback, thinking about your approach, making it collaborative, asking questions, gaining clarity, and understanding that it’s okay to think about the feedback and be transparent with people that, “Hey, thanks. I want to think about this a little bit. Let me get back to you,” can all be really powerful ways to improve your ability to benefit from that feedback.

Brodie Riordan:

In fact, Sara, I think saying something like that will really show the other person that you do care, and that you’re really listening. It will show that you’re taking the feedback seriously and you’re genuinely thinking about what you want to do with it.

Sara Shondrick:

That’s a great point. I think it really goes to help the other person then feel more comfortable giving you feedback in the future, which is something that we all really want. But oftentimes, people think the other person doesn’t want to hear constructive feedback. A lot of research shows that, more often than not, non-employees do want more feedback, including constructive feedback. So these are all really good.

Brodie Riordan:

And sometimes the person who’s providing that critical feedback is just as uncomfortable, if not more, than the person who’s receiving it. So that’s something else that’s important to recognize, both the giver and the receiver. This can be an uncomfortable experience for both of us, but I’m giving this feedback to you with the intent to help.

Brodie Riordan:

And naming that, right? It’s fine if you’re going into a conversation to say, “I have to tell you, I’m kind of uncomfortable sharing this with you, but I care about you, and so I really want you to hear this.”

Sara Shondrick:

Yeah. I love that, because I think modeling some of that vulnerability helps the other person to also know that it’s okay to be a little vulnerable and allow yourself to be authentic and just needing some time to think through it in order to [crosstalk 00:28:09].

Brodie Riordan:

Yeah. And it also makes it clear what your intentions are. I’m not giving this feedback to you to try and make you feel bad. I’m giving you this feedback because I genuinely want you to know about this thing.

Sara Shondrick:

Definitely. So then looking at your tips for giving feedback, focusing on the behavior, not the person, not drawing inferences, I really love that approach because it gets right down to you, the ultimate me to the feedback, keeping it evidence based and specific, and to the point. Avoiding that feedback sandwich and just telling me like it is will be very up helpful.

Brodie Riordan:

Straight up tell me. And then enjoying that silence, as our good friend, Depeche Mode, told us all along.

Sara Shondrick:

Exactly. Don’t be afraid to pause. It’s not that you are creating uncomfortable silences that you’re giving the other person space.

Sara Shondrick:

Amazing. Well, so as you may know, The Mix Podcast has a couple of traditions that we always like to ask our interviewees. So first question, what’s your favorite song?

Brodie Riordan:

Sara, this was a really hard one for me, because I have so many favorite songs. It depends a lot on the situation and my mood, and all sorts of things. But if I had to pick one, I have to say it’s Everybody Wants to Rule the World by Tears for Fears.

Sara Shondrick:

Ooh, good selection. Consider it added to The Mix Talent playlist.

Brodie Riordan:

Thank you.

Sara Shondrick:

Next question for you, what’s your favorite interview question?

Brodie Riordan:

Okay. So I’m going to answer a slightly different question, because I’m a coach, so I think about questions all the time. My favorite question is more conducive to coaching than to interviewing, although maybe there’s some creative ways you could use this in an interview. My favorite question is, if you could do anything you wanted, what would it be?

Brodie Riordan:

I love this because it helps people get out of constrained thinking. So if you’re running up against a problem, whatever it might be, just taking a step back and saying like, “If I could waive my magic wand, or if I could do whatever I wanted, if I had no constraints, what would I do?”

Brodie Riordan:

I find that it helps people come up with creative solutions, or think of things that they hadn’t previously identified about a problem. And then you can work back from that and come up with a realistic solution. But it just sort of broadens people’s thinking a little bit.

Sara Shondrick:

I really love that question, because as you mentioned, it gets them to think beyond immediate obstacles or challenges that they’re facing to think about the end goal, and then work backwards from there to figure out how they can make it happen realistically.

Brodie Riordan:

I actually use this question a lot with my partner, Tim, when we’re trying to decide where to go for dinner. We live in downtown Washington, D.C., where we have the gift of… an abundance of incredible restaurants. It’s very hard to make a choice sometime. It’s like decision architecture, there’s too many options. So I’ll say to him, “If you could eat anything you wanted, what would it be?” And then we try to find a match.

Sara Shondrick:

That’s amazing. Well, hopefully, that helps you eat better dinners that are more delicious with all those many D.C. options that you have.

Brodie Riordan:

Very high stake situation.

Sara Shondrick:

Well, Brodie, it’s been great talking to you. Thank you so much for taking the time to talk to us and then help us get better giving and receiving feedback.

Brodie Riordan:

Likewise. Sara, thank you so much for inviting me. And it’s always fun to have a reason to talk to you.

Natalie Taylor:

Thank you so much to Sara and Brodie for that wonderful conversation. I loved listening to that. I feel like I learned so much. There’s so many things that I want to reflect on, and one of them being the feedback sandwich. It’s got to go.

Valerie McCandlish:

Get it out of here.

Natalie Taylor:

I never really thought of it in that light before, but when Brodie explained it, it made so much sense, that we’re conditioned to expect negative feedback after hearing positive feedback.

Valerie McCandlish:

And it almost makes you feel like the positive feedback is disingenuous, because it’s preceding something negative. So it’s like, is what’s being given to you as positive feedback actually true? Or is it being given to you to soften the negative feedback?

Natalie Taylor:

Right. Yes. I love that. I feel like I definitely will be able to use that in both professional and personal lives. So that was really interesting. Another thing I thought was interesting was reacting to positive feedback. So for me, personally, sometimes I can get a little bit uncomfortable when receiving positive feedback, although it’s great to receive it, but it can make me feel slightly uncomfortable.

Natalie Taylor:

So I love that they touched on that, because it makes me realize that that’s normal, and that there’s ways to overcome it. So that was really interesting. And then lastly, I loved what they said about giving some space and time between you and the feedback to process it. And to separate yourself between the emotion and the real feedback was really great advice.

Valerie McCandlish:

So true, especially if you’re somebody who is anticipating the feedback, whatever it’s going to be, to be negative. And sometimes it could be constructive criticism that is going to help you improve, but it is calling upon something that may not be so positive. If you’re already anticipating it to be something negative, you’re probably not going to be in the right head space to receive said feedback. So if you can remove yourself from it, take some time and then come back, you’re probably going to receive it much better. I agree.

Valerie McCandlish:

Also, that kind of eludes a little bit to taking some ownership of the experience as well. I know that Brodie and Sara had asked about an idea for a song. So if we’re talking about how the feedback should be a dialogue, a collaborative conversation that maybe you don’t have to take it at face value, that you can ask questions, draw more information, ask questions to get more specifics, then you’re going to have a much better discussion on that feedback. But they needed a song idea, and I-

Natalie Taylor:

Do you have one?

Valerie McCandlish:

Yeah, I came up with one. I think that it should be, It Takes Two by… Who sings that song. Is it DJ Mace? No. Rob Base and DJ EZ Rock.

Valerie McCandlish:

(Singing)

Natalie Taylor:

I love that. That’s perfect. Let’s get Brodie’s input and let’s see what she thinks. I think it’s-

Valerie McCandlish:

It’s not an ’80s song though.

Natalie Taylor:

Yeah, you’re right. But it’s okay.

Valerie McCandlish:

But maybe she can make an exception.

Natalie Taylor:

I think she might be able to make an exception. I think it’s perfect. I love it. Awesome. Maybe we can add that one to The Mix Tape too, just for fun.

Valerie McCandlish:

And then we’ll add Brodie’s suggestions as well.

Natalie Taylor:

Of course. Yes, definitely. Which is, Everybody Wants to Rule the World. And I would say, Brodie ruled this podcast [crosstalk 00:34:52].

Valerie McCandlish:

Absolutely. She did rule this podcast, and I can’t wait to add her song to the playlist. You can keep an eye out for that on Spotify for each of the additions. And then at this point, I think everybody knows where they get their podcast. But keep an eye out, we have a new episode dropping every week. Thanks for being in The Mix. We’ll see you next week.

 

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