If, as Ken Blanchard states, feedback is the breakfast of champions, why is it muesli rather than champagne?
Good for us, but still pretty hard to swallow!
Good quality ongoing feedback is one of the cornerstones of continuous improvement in organisations. It surely follows then, that the skill of giving and receiving feedback is one of the most important that leaders and managers can develop. And yet, ironically, it is probably the most frequently lacking. I very often come across managers who are both hesitant to give it and scared about receiving it. And when I ask groups what springs to mind when they hear the word “feedback” they say things like “criticism”, “blame”, or “a right ****ocking”. Obviously something to be avoided at all costs! And if that is their view of the reality of feedback, how will it affect them in giving it as well as receiving it?
I am currently working with Sue. She is the only woman on a senior management team and feels she is not receiving the respect she deserves or enjoying the same credibility as the male members of the team. It is important that initially she gathers accurate feedback from her colleagues in order to check the evidence for these perceptions. Once this is to hand, she can put together a strategy for dealing with the issues, real or perceived.
Sue is reluctant to use any kind of 360 degree survey as she doesn’t want her colleagues to know that she is working with a coach. There are, however, other ways of getting quality feedback and this is what we have agreed:
1. Watch people around you . Sue is going to get to the next meeting early and observe how people respond to her as they enter the room. Do they smile and come over to her? Do they barely acknowledge her presence? Do they ask her a question? During the meeting she will observe them as she contributes. Do they listen attentively or look bored or frustrated?
2. Listen to them. Every time anyone around Sue makes a casual remark about her, whether positive or negative, at home or at work, she is going to write it down – things like “you always do that”, “that was really good” or “late again”. Over a number of days she will begin to build up a picture of how people view her. There is a saying that if one person calls you a stubborn mule you should ignore it but when you have been described as a stubborn mule a number of times it could be time to go and buy yourself a saddle!
3. Ask effective questions . The quality of feedback we receive in response to our request for it rests on the quality of the questions we ask. Sue doesn’t want to involve her peers in a 360 degree survey but is going to approach trusted colleagues and ask them effective questions to help her out.
If she asks general questions such as “How did I perform in that meeting?” she will get general answers like, “You were fine!” If she asks specific questions like, “When I deliver my proposal will you observe my body language and give me specific feedback on how it is supporting or undermining me as a confident presenter?”, she will get specific, behavioural feedback that she can do something valuable with.
Once Sue has carried out these actions she will have a fuller picture of the actual situation, but not a complete one. To amplify it further, I’m going to suggest that she tunes into her self talk to see how she, like most of us, is twisting her thinking in order to support the beliefs she already holds about herself and others. I will let you know how we get on.
Meanwhile, let me ask you:
How aware are you of your impact on those around you?
How can you search out high quality feedback that will lead to your continuing development?