Thanks for the Feedback (Even When It’s Off Base, Unfair, Poorly Delivered, & Frankly, You’re Not in the Mood) presented by Sheila Heen, faculty, Harvard Law School, best-selling author, Boston, Mass.

SHRM 2016 Annual Conference & Exposition

High performance, collaboration and innovation rely on honest, continuous feedback. Yet most people struggle with feedback conversations, whether they’re on the giving side or the receiving end. Fifty-five percent of employees say their performance review is inaccurate or unfair, and one in four dread it more than anything else in their working lives. Sixty-three percent of executives say their biggest challenge to performance management is the unwillingness of managers to have difficult feedback conversations. The typical response is to focus on teaching (and encouraging) managers to give feedback, to be more skillful and more persistent. But if the receiver is unwilling or unable to take in the feedback—to truly understand and wrestle with it—there’s only so far that skillfulness or even persistence can go. 

We’ve been going at it backwards. We should first be teaching everyone—leaders and employees alike—how to receive feedback. The advice must go beyond “don’t take it personally” or “don’t get defensive.” This session will take a hard look at the triggered reactions we all have to feedback, and how to turn even off-base, crazy-making feedback into real learning and growth. The fastest way to change the feedback culture in your organization is to teach your leaders how to receive feedback well. This session will provide a simple framework for understanding our triggered reactions to receiving feedback, both in formal performance reviews and in daily interactions with direct reports, colleagues and superiors. We can better manage all feedback conversations, whether giving or receiving. At the end of this session you will: 

  • Understand the two conflicting human needs at the heart of feedback.
  • Be able to identify three triggers that lead to feedback resistance, as well as to determine emotional sensitivity and how it factors into your response to positive and negative feedback.
  • Teach your leaders to first understand the feedback, and to see their own blind spots.
  • Spot and avoid the “SwitchTrack” conversations that derail feedback conversations and damage working relationships.
  • Encourage “Honest Mirrors” and “Supportive Mirrors” to balance feedback.
  • Handle the “Google Bias” and other identity distortions.
  • Create a learning culture on your teams, and empower your people to drive their own learning.
Date(s) & Time(s): 
Tuesday, June 21, 2016 - 2:15pm to 4:15pm

Sheila Heen


Sheila Heen specializes in particularly challenging conversations, where emotions run high and relationships are frayed. She offers the insight and skills to tackle the conversations and conflicts that leaders face every day.

She is a 20-year member of the world-renowned Harvard Negotiation Project, a Harvard faculty member and co-author of two New York Times best sellers.

Difficult Conversations: How to Discuss What Matters Most is used by leaders all over the world and has even been loaded onto the International Space Station to help astronauts collaborate effectively in that high-stakes, high-pressure environment. Named one of 50 psychology classics alongside Freud and Jung, Difficult Conversations was also named by Penguin as one of the most important books it has ever published.

In the revolutionary Thanks for the Feedback, Sheila brings a fresh perspective to our universal struggles with feedback in every organization by recognizing that in any exchange between giver and receiver, it’s the receiver who is in charge. It’s the receiver who decides what to let in, how to make sense of it, and whether and how to choose to change. The key to accelerating your own learning, as well as the culture of feedback on your team, is understanding the universal challenges of receiving feedback well. From examining our conflicted relationship with feedback, to identifying the triggers that create defensiveness and denial, Sheila’s highly interactive sessions bring insight, practical tools and concrete skills for transforming your own relationship with feedback.

A sought-after commentator and writer, her articles have appeared in the Harvard Business Review, O, The Oprah Magazine, the New York Times, Fortune and Real Simple. She has been featured on NPR and FOX News, Wharton Leadership Radio, CNBC’s Power Lunch and The Oprah Winfrey Show. Her corporate clients span six continents and a dozen industries, including banking, defense, consumer goods, mining, insurance, IT, pharma and biotech, education and media/entertainment. In the public sector, she has provided training for the New England Organ Bank, the Singapore Supreme Court, Greek and Turkish Cypriots grappling with the conflict that divides their island, and theologians struggling with disagreement over the nature of truth and God.

Sheila is a graduate of Occidental College and Harvard Law School. She is schooled in negotiation daily by her three children. 

Convention Center Ballroom AB
Amount of Credit: 
Credit Type: 
HR Credit
Session Type: 
Masters Series
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