I was introduced to the Gap Map in Thanks for the Feedback. It helps to explain why feedback can be so tough and presents a strategy for conversation.
Think of the following progression:
- My thoughts and feelings.
- My intentions.
- My behavior.
- My impact on them.
- Their story about me.
In a relationship, we’re truly only aware of #1 and #2.
Here’s the flip side: You’re mostly blind to #3, #4, and #5. They (the receiving party) has a full vantage point to observe your actions and your impact. They form their own story about you as a result.
It’s like one huge game of telephone where the message can get seriously garbled along the way.
A disconnect between #1 and #2 (the information I’m privy to) and #3, #4, and #5 (the information I’m blind to) creates a gap.
Example: I want to invite other ideas from the team in the brainstorming session (my intention). As a result, I go around the table and ask leading questions that reinforce my position (my behavior). They feel steamrolled and undervalued (my impact on them) and think I’m a jerk (their story about me).
Example: I want my sales team to finish at the top of the company. My main mechanism to make that happen is to reinforce sales figures and celebrate anyone at the top of the leaderboard. This leaves everyone else feeling neglected and sends the message “Numbers above all else” to everyone on the team.
The good news is that simply recognizing you have blind spots is part of the solution. Realize that you don’t have all of the pieces to the puzzle. You have to consult with others to get the full picture.
The gap also presents a framework for having tough feedback conversations. Our gut reaction when presented with a gap is to argue our point and convince the other side that their wrong. The aren’t wrong at all. They just see things differently than we do.
Let’s say you send out a feedback request to your team. For the past year, you’ve focused on setting and communicating clear goals to the team. When you receive the results, you’re dismayed to find out that your team sees the goals as oppressive and overly demanding.
A) Argue back and forth about why their wrong and you’re right.
B) Say, “That’s definitely disappointing to hear. It certainly doesn’t match my intention for our goals [recognizing the gap]. Can you walk me through some specific examples of when the goals felt too demanding?”
With option B, you recognize the gap and ask them to shed light on your particular blind spots. No one in this conversation is wrong. They just have a different vantage point.