The most eye-opening feedback I ever received was from my young son. One night when he was seven years old, he asked for my help with his homework. I was delighted, and we sat down together at the table. While he worked through his assignment, I managed to get a little of my own work done on my Blackberry.
When my son finished his work, I asked him what he had learned. He said, “Well, I learned you really love your Blackberry.”
It was tough feedback, but I needed to hear it. Many of us never realize how our actions are perceived by the people around us. In my case, I had thought I was being an incredibly effective Supermom – spending time with my son and keeping up at the office at the same time. But to my son, my multitasking made it feel like work was more important than he was. That kind of tough feedback can feel like a punch to the gut, but it’s also an opportunity to change.
Recently, I had a wonderful chance to talk about mindfulness in the workplace and how we give and receive feedback with Dr. Dan Gottlieb on “Voices in the Family” on WHYY-FM. Dr. Gottlieb interviewed me and several experts on feedback and workplace psychology about how businesses can use feedback to create a better and more effective work environment.
I was proud to talk about the culture of mindfulness and feedback that we strive for at UnitedHealthcare. As a healthcare company, we need to have a well-rounded perspective on health that we can only get by listening to feedback from our employees, members, medical experts and the community. Here are a few of our strategies:
- Positive feedback is just as important as constructive feedback. Many people brush off compliments about their work, modestly saying, “It was nothing!” But at UnitedHealthcare, we teach our employees to say “thank you” when they receive kudos on their work because it helps them identify what is working.
- Compassion and empathy play key roles in understanding how others perceive your words and actions. We train our customer service representatives to be fully engaged when talking to members, and even encourage them to follow their instincts and write compassionate notes to people who are experiencing particularly challenging situations. By examining a situation through someone else’s point of view, we can better understand how that person perceives our own behavior.
- Difficult as it is in our hi-tech world, mindfulness is more critical than ever. At UnitedHealthcare, the leader of our Center for Nursing Advancement is a certified expert on mindfulness and hosts monthly calls to which any employee can dial-in for a 20-minute mindful experience.
Most importantly, feedback doesn’t have to wait for a formal meeting or an annual performance review. It only takes a minute to give someone a compliment or constructive comment about their work, but the rewards are long-lasting.
If you are an early riser, the full interview, “Mindfulness at work: How do you come across?” will be rebroadcast on Sunday at 6 a.m. on WHYY-FM, Philadelphia. If not, you can hear the interview now on WHYY-FM here.