Three Ways to Get Usable Feedback
Learning how to give and receive feedback effectively is imperative for leadership development. Some people dread it, some people don’t get enough of it. Some leaders are great at giving feedback and some avoid it except when forced. We recommend that you start seeking feedback from your boss, your peers, and your direct reports on a regular basis. Here are three things you can do to improve your process:
- Stop using anonymous feedback! Feedback isn’t useful out of context or if you can’t understand it. One of my clients got feedback in his 360 that he was dishonest with auditors. This is a person who doesn’t have a dishonest bone in his body and would never knowingly misrepresent the truth to an auditor or anyone else. But the feedback is anonymous so he can’t ask the person to help him understand their perspective. At stage 3, a person often believes that their perspective is the objective truth and could see someone else’s perspective as a lie, misdirection, or a misrepresentation. It would be incredibly helpful for everyone to be able to have a conversation about this and to move from a place of absolute truth to a place of perspective, intention, and impact. Instead, we have a whole team of people (including HR, his boss, he himself, the anonymous feedback giver, anyone he/she has now told this story to, and the people who they then pass it on to) who are now rethinking the integrity of an entirely honest, impeccable employee. This is the kind of damage to individuals, teams, and organizations that we take a stand against.
- Have feedback be a regular, normal, and welcome part of your team and your culture by using tools like a Retrospective (Retro) or an After-Action Review (AAR). A good Retrospective or After-Action Review can be applied to anything: a project, a meeting, a relationship, an outcome, a process, etc. You leave time or schedule time to go through the following questions as a way to seek feedback about a situation, a project, a process, or a meeting. There are really only 4 questions; adjust them slightly to fit your context:
- What is going well? What went well?
- What isn’t going well? What needs improvement? What was surprising? What didn’t go according to plan?
- What can be done? What are your recommendations? What’s your advice?
- Is there anything else?
- Actively manage your reputation and the reputations of the people on your team by regularly seeking and giving this kind of feedback:
- Acknowledge strengths, skills, and values. People don’t know that the things they are good at are special. Most of them have a strengths bias and believe that everyone can and should be able to do the things that they can do. It is helpful to start showing people that they have a unique set of gifts that they bring to the team and that it isn’t necessarily reasonable to expect everyone else on the team to have the same strengths.
- Help people understand their challenges and their opportunities for growth. You don’t have to know how to solve a problem. You can just point it out and be an open-minded thought partner in discovering a solution. Example: “It seems like you and Sam have a difference of opinion about how to proceed. Would you like to talk it through?”
- Do you have relevant advice or recommendations? Do you have questions that you think would be helpful for the person to consider? Share them.
- Is there anything else? You may have insights or experience to share or you may have heard (potentially untrue) gossip that it’s helpful to share so that the individual can adjust behaviors or address things that need addressing.
These are just some basic ideas on how you might learn to give and receive feedback better and more often. We challenge you to do it better. Let us know what you’re doing that’s working or if there’s anything we can do to help you improve your feedback process.
And click on the image above to get your Feedback Cheat Sheet!