Feedback is an essential part of performance. In my previous blog about giving feedback I explain why it’s so important for managers and leaders to give feedback. In this blog I’ll explain why it’s so important for managers and leaders to get feedback. Here’s my 6 tips for getting feedback.
#1. Feedback Is A Gift
I had a client ask me “How do I NOT take feedback personally?”. My answer was simple — “feedback is a gift”. Let me say that again — “feedback is a gift”. In business and in life attitude is everything and if your attitude about feedback is that it’s a criticism, that’s how it will show up for you and it won’t be of any use to you. But if your attitude is that feedback is a gift, then feedback will be something you can use to your advantage!
#2. It Doesn’t Mean What You Think It Does
When you get negative feedback it’s hard to hear it for what it is. For example, when my client got feedback that he was a “micro-manager” the reason this feedback felt so personal was because what he heard in the feedback was that he was a “bad manager” or “not good at his job”. And that’s not what the feedback meant. Feedback is personal because it relates too you, but it’s not about if you’re good or not, it’s about receiving information in relationship to your performance or your results. So hearing that you’re a “micro-manager” does not mean you’re a bad manager, it just gives you information about where to go to work on taking your management to the next level. It’s like a hockey coach telling his star player that he needs to focus on getting in front of the net more often. This feedback from the coach doesn’t mean the hockey player is a bad player, it just tells the player what to focus on to up his game. So, when you get negative feedback know it’s just information that can help you up your game.
#3. What Got You Here Won’t Get You There
In one of my fav business books, What Got You Here Won’t Get You There: How Successful People Become Even More Successful, Marshall Goldsmith writes about how whatever got you to this level of success will not be the same thing that gets you to the next level of success. I have seen this over and over and over again with many leaders. They get stuck because they’ve fallen into the trap of relying on their past strengths and it starts limit their results. Feedback is a very effective way to avoid this trap because feedback is always related to current performance, not past performance. Feedback tells you what you need to focus on for where you are right now.
#4. Be Proactive
One of the biggest issues for managers and leaders is that as they move up the “food chain” in their career they tend to get less and less feedback and this slows down their professional growth and starts to create an avoidance to feedback. To prevent this from happening you have to proactively seek feedback and make sure you get honest feedback. The best way to do this is through both structured and unstructured feedback. Structured feedback can include regular anonymous feedback from your colleagues, subordinates and those above you — a great way to do this is through a 360 Review. Another way to get feedback is through a less structured approach, like just asking more questions to as many people as possible (don’t limit yourself to just your subordinates or your boss). Try out these questions to start getting some valuable feedback:
- What can I dial up?
- What can I dial down?
- What can you rely on me for?
- What does everyone know about me?
- What would everyone say about me if I wasn’t in the room?
- What’s your experience of me? / Working with me? / Working for me?
- What’s the one thing I could have done better in that meeting/week/month?
- Follow each of these questions with “Tell me more about that?” / “Can you give me a specific example?”
#5. Use Feedback To Build Trust
One of the best talks I’ve watched in a long time is Brene Brown’s “The Anatomy of Trust”.
In her talk, Brene Brown explains about how we trust people who have integrity. She defines integrity as choosing courage over comfort; doing what’s right over what’s fun, fast and easy; and practicing values not professing them. Thus, when leaders stop getting feedback and stop seeking feedback they start to loose the trust of their teams because they’re being comfortable, they’re doing what’s easy, and they’re not practicing the values of leadership (see my post on ‘Leaders go first‘).
#6. Follow Up On Feedback
Last, but certainly not least, once you get feedback you have to follow up on it. Meaning, you have to take action on the feedback and circle back to the person who you the feedback and let them know the action(s) you’re taking in regards to his or her feedback. There is no point in putting effort in to getting feedback if you’re not going to use it — that’s like paying for a gym membership and never going. Plus, you will further diminish people’s trust in you if they provide you feedback and never see that you’ve taken it into account in an actionable and accountable way.
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