Seeking Honest Feedback

Image of a man having a discussion with another personWe are all seeking to be the best we can be.  As leaders, this means we need to focus on creating an environment where giving and receiving of feedback is part of our operating DNA, the way we do business.  This in turn, means we need to be effective in giving and receiving feedback and make it an essential part of the way we lead our people. While we will all profess to clearly understand this equation, the research consistently suggests that we are not adequate in providing effective feedback to those that we serve.  We are also not very good at actively seeking out feedback on our own performance.  This same research also indicates that a large number of us lack self-awareness and generally miss the mark when assessing our own performance as leaders within our business.

While the use of feedback tools such as a 360 Degree Feedback survey is a proactive way in which leaders can seek to develop their levels of self-awareness, it must be remembered that these tools are not stand alone solutions.  There are many other behavioural strategies that leaders can adopt to create an environment where giving and receiving feedback is considered essential to the success of the team/business.  These strategies were mentioned in an article I read recently which discussed techniques leaders can use to get honest feedback from their team members. The article, 4 Ways to Get Honest, Critical Feedback from your Employees, by Ron Carucci, advises leaders to use all the resources and tools they have at their disposal to create an environment where clear, concise, accurate and non-judgemental feedback is provided as a development opportunity for everybody. Carucci suggests there are four actions that we can take to gain effective honest feedback from our teams. These actions are:

Encourage Diversity of Views:  If you really want to understand what your team think of you – then ask them and do it as often as possible.  Encourage your team to be diverse in their views, to challenge your views.  They should be comfortable pushing back, asking questions and raising concerns in an enquiring manner.

Listen With Your Eyes: We are all constantly communicating through our tone and our body language (referred to as our nonverbal cues).  Therefore, to be really effective listeners, we need to learn to listen with our eyes.  By learning to read and understand a person’s nonverbal cues, you may come to realise they can often be telling a different story to what is being said through the words.  Learn to read the powerful cues such as someone suddenly avoiding eye-contact or getting defensive.  By using these cues and sharing your observations, you may be able to encourage people to share more of what is really going on in their thoughts and deepen the level of feedback that you are able to receive.

Monitor Your Own Version: Don’t start to believe your own version of the truth.  We can often create our own version of the story that frames things in an overly positive way that justifies our behaviours and decisions.  As leaders, we must take a step back and force ourselves to dispassionately review the circumstances and alternatives and try to do this without going too far the other way and becoming overly self-critical. It’s all about balance and reaching a more accurate and informed perspective.

Know your triggers Part of being self-aware is understanding what your triggers are – what really pushes your buttons and leads you toward acting in a less than ideal way. Self-aware leaders will not only know what their triggers are, they’ll ask others to name them. Encouraging those who work with you to call you out on bad behaviour will not only ensure you’re aware of the impact you’re having on others, but it also makes you accountable for your actions and behaviours.

While formal reviews such as 360 degree feedback are an effective way to receive feedback, they are not the only way. Creating an environment that encourages diversity in views, teaches listening with our eyes, challenges our own views and helps us understand our own triggers is the ideal situation.  In this type of environment, feedback is part of our operating DNA and is not restricted to formal tools or annual feedback processes. It is a gift that we can offer each other at any time of the day and in any situation.  As Bill Gates said ‘We all need people who will give us feedback. That’s how we improve.’  So go ahead and share the gift of feedback.

Happy leading!