The no-fuss way for leaders to seek feedback

One of the biggest challenges faced by #21CenturyLeaders, is receiving regular, honest, #feedback.

You can overcome this challenge by using the following technique.

When you are conducting your regular one on one #conversations with your direct reports or peers, consider saying the following:

“Like yourself, I’m eager to improve myself as a leader, and I want to be the best leader I can be for our organisation. Over time, I have learned that it is challenging to improve without feedback. No doubt I have a view about how I’m performing and behaving, but it is never quite the same as hearing other people’s perspectives on how I am doing.

In that context, I would appreciate it if you would be willing to provide me with specific regular feedback? By regular, I mean every month or so, while sometimes it would also be helpful if you gave me immediate feedback if you saw something that needed instant attention.”

Is this something you would be interested in helping me with?”

(Assuming they agree – which most people will)…

To help them be effective with their feedback to you, they will need clarity and structure. In this context, there are four questions I recommend you ask them to focus on.

  1. Gary RyanWhat behaviours, if any, are you seeing that you believe I should keep doing because they are helping me perform my role as a leader?
  2. What behaviours, if any, do you see that you believe I should stop doing because you think they negatively affect my role as a leader?
  3. What behaviours, if any, do you believe I should start doing that would help me in my leadership role?
  4. Finally, is there anything in addition to what you have already shared with me that you believe I should be doing to enhance our professional relationship?

Ensure your colleague knows that if they don’t have anything to share for any of the four questions, they do not need to make it up! If they have nothing to say, then that is okay.

If they agree, then it may be possible they have immediate answers for you. Otherwise, arrange a time for them to share their responses. Verbal feedback is encouraged, and you are encouraged to take some notes when you receive this feedback. Taking notes shows the person you are listening to and taking what they say seriously.

What to do when you receive the feedback

Your role is to ensure that you understand what is being said to you. You do not have to agree with it, but you must understand it.

Always wait for the person to finish speaking before you say anything. This can be done as they share their thoughts on each question. If they say anything that isn’t clear, wait for them to finish speaking, and say, “Thanks for sharing XYZ. I wasn’t sure what you meant when you said, “X”. Do you have a specific example for me, please?”

They may need a minute or two to think of an example, which is fine. After they share the example, again say, “Thank you.”

If they tell you something that shocks you, ensure you understand what you have been told. Again, you don’t have to agree with it. Your first job is to understand what you have been told, and then you can take some time to process it.

After they have finished providing their feedback, thank them again. If there is anything you could immediately action, say something like, “That makes a lot of sense to me, and I would like to focus on that immediately. When you see ABC would you mind letting me know in a quiet moment how you think I’m going?” (This includes positive behaviours that you are starting to practice – in fact it is essential to get feedback for these new behaviours, too).

If you have some behaviours you are trying to stop, it is equally important to give the person who is providing you with feedback permission to give you a gentle “nudge” if they witness any of these behaviours at work.

For feedback that shocks or surprises you, it is best not to commit to any actions until you have had time to make sense of it. It is okay to say something like, “Thank you for your honesty, which is important to me. As you can see, I am a little surprised by what you have told me. I understand what you said, but it will take me a week or so to process it. In the meantime, if you see me do anything similar to what you have told me today, please give me a gentle nudge along the lines of, “This is what we were talking about”.”

Sometimes the immediacy of that nudge can make the behaviour clearer.

Remember, everything you are told through this process is a gift. There can never be negative consequences for any of the people who agree to help you in this manner, and to do so would be to sabotage the process altogether.

An essential element of this practice is that no one else has to know it is occurring. These conversations are private. However, when you involve at least three or four of your colleagues, each experiences you as an exceptional role model. At the appropriate time, you may encourage them to do something similar. Over time, as more people become involved in this form of feedback, these behaviours will influence your culture. You will create an open culture where people can genuinely provide each other with honest, respectful, and timely feedback. In future articles, I’ll share more about how to gradually build an open culture where genuine, honest feedback is valued.

What are you doing to model the way for a culture that embraces feedback?

Please feel free to share this article with your network.

By Gary Ryan

Gary Ryan helps talented professionals, their teams and organisations, move Beyond Being Good®