Seeking Feedback

In Self-Management

By Maura Fay Learning

Do you mean there’s an alternative to a 360-diagnostic?

In years of administering 360 leadership diagnostic instruments at Maura Fay Learning, a common theme has emerged in the data. Leaders at all levels rate poorly on seeking feedback; i.e. asking others for feedback on themselves and their performance. No wonder the world of a 360 diagnostic is alive and kicking!

While we are big advocates of a 360 diagnostic for the right reasons, we are proposing here that the skills, confidence and mindset of leaders to seek feedback on a regular basis is a dying art and one we all need to embrace.

Can you imagine a workplace where leaders don’t seek feedback on themselves or their performance? What would it be like to work there?

Leaders would lack the curiosity and willingness to open up and learn from others. Leaders would lack the self-awareness required to perform in their role and employees around them would be less forthcoming in giving feedback. In this environment, it’s a no to collective innovation, a no to a learning culture and a no to genuine relationships built on trust, honesty and transparency.
And while this all seems a little dramatic at first, for leaders this is an all too common scenario that is hurting organisational culture and performance.

What does seeking feedback actually look like?

It’s really not that scientific. See the following examples of simple seeking feedback questions.

  • You mentioned you were really pleased about the work I did on… If you don’t mind me asking, what was it that hit the mark for you?
  • How do you think I could handle this differently in the future?
  • Why do you think I keep having this issue?
  • How would you approach this if you were me?
  • How could I have supported you better on this?
  • What’s one thing I could have done better in that presentation?
  • How did that go from your perspective?

So given that most leaders can see the link between seeking feedback and overall performance improvement, why would so many avoid seeking feedback?

Here are a few common reasons we hear from leaders in our client organisations.

  • It’s not something I think about.
  • I don’t really rate the opinions of those around me, although sometimes I might ask my boss.
  • I’m not confident in how I’ll respond to the feedback. I don’t trust that I’ll keep things together. One look at my face and they’ll see I’m wanting to dispute the feedback but I know I have to listen and accept what they’re saying.
  • I feel like I’m going OK. I’m comfortable with where things are at. Seeking feedback might mean that I need to change and to be frank, I’m not sure I can be bothered.
  • The working environment is really not ready for it. Any time I’ve asked for feedback in the past I’ve only heard positive things and I really wanted a more balanced view so I can learn and grow. If all I’m going to hear are positives, I could call my mum.
  • I already know that I’m doing a lousy job. Why would I want others to confirm what I already know -that I’m not leading them well; my confidence is already low.
  • I don’t see anyone else in our organisation doing it. Culturally it’s not the done thing and I’m not sure I want to start the craze.

Do any of the points above resonate with you or the leaders in your organisation? Based on our experiences, we’re guessing that some might ring true.

Where to from here? It’s time for leaders to embrace the idea of seeking feedback and for it to be part of their leadership brand. It’s not something to do sporadically; it needs to be part of their leadership ethos.

Here are a few thought starters to get you and your leaders thinking and acting differently…

  1. You have to start somewhere. Maybe telegraph your intentions to those around you so it doesn’t come as a complete shock. Remember, the more you seek feedback the more you seek feedback!
  2. Be clear on what you’re looking for. Look for any gaps in your own development or areas of misperception where you feel that your self-assessment might be different to the opinions of others.
  3. Ask specific questions rather than, “Any feedback …?” Probe for specifics.
  4. Ask in real time, don’t dawdle and don’t schedule a meeting to do it.
  5. Don’t just ask your boss. Look left, right and down on the organisational chart. Go outside your friendship network and look for some tough love.
  6. Be clear to others that you want honest feedback.
  7. Write down what they say. It’s good for you to record it; it’s also nice for them to see you’re taking it seriously.
  8. Frame the seeking feedback question by focusing on the future, i.e. “Next time, what do you think I could have done differently with XYZ?”. People are more willing to be honest with this approach.
  9. Listen carefully, don’t get defensive and be prepared for the conversation to go a little longer than you first expected.

We hope you’re now ready and fired up to embark on your leadership journey to seek feedback from those around you. Providing your heart is in it, you’ll notice dramatic improvements in your performance and the culture around you.

We wish you well.

This blog is taken from our Performance Leadership eBook. Download your copy today.

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