What Do You Think ??

Feedback is a tricky thing. When we talk about this topic, our focus is how we give feedback to others. This is needed because it doesn’t occur naturally, or often enough, in our organizations. It’s interesting to me though that when we write about feedback, we personally are never in the mix. Since the direction of feedback is always outward, isn’t is possible that we won’t receive any ourselves?

We are more than willing to give our opinion about people. It doesn’t take much prodding at all. The challenge is that when this occurs, we tend to list negative items or note things that we think need to be “addressed.” This is technically a form of feedback and it’s typically what people expect. It seems that it’s harder to give positive feedback, but it’s just that we haven’t practiced.

Feedback IconsTo get started though, I’d like to suggest something different. What if you asked people for feedback? Seriously, What if you asked people – “What do you think?” but it was about you and your performance. I know this is absolutely out of everyone’s comfort zone, but it’s an alternative approach.

The fact is – we all have blind spots. We may be behaving or performing in a way that is affecting others, but we don’t know what’s happening. You may not be “clicking” with them, or something just feels out of kilter. There is also a significant norm you’d be breaking because asking others to give you feedback may put people on the defensive. They may not know how to respond because they are stuck in the old model of either giving or receiving negative feedback the majority of time.

I know that this is a big stretch, so here are some starters to help you ask and also seek feedback from others.

  • What am I doing right ?? – You can set the stage and approach for these types of interaction by being positive going in. You have to get over the self-esteem barrier that may hold you back. This isn’t for others to brag about you. It’s to help them see that feedback can be positive !!
  • Where do you see me being an obstacle ?? – We all get in the way of someone. There are things that hinder our performance from being the best it can be. If we’re an obstacle to others, it’s better to know what that looks like so you can address it and, hopefully, remove it.
  • What’s an area where I could improve ?? – People want to share how you could do better. Asking it this way stops them from launching on you with a barrage of negativity. Ask people for things that are tangible and relevant and not just differences in personality or approach.
  • How can I help you do better in your role ?? – This one will throw people off completely. You see, we TELL people what to do and to get work done. The majority of people have a “task” mentality and they want to see defined stops and starts. By offering to help someone else you develop yourself and also relationships. Both are key to you doing well.

I know that this goes against what people think when it comes to the world of feedback. I want you to be encouraged though. I know this works because I’ve tried to practice it myself with peers as well as people who’ve been my boss. It’s a bit wonky when it starts, but I’ve seen it blossom to more open, regular and consistent communication.

Check out other’s thoughts on this as part of the Feedback Carnival that Helen Amery is doing out of the UK !! It’s fabulous !!

So, now that you’ve seen this different option . . . what do you think ??

15 thoughts on “What Do You Think ??”

  1. I love this post and these questions. What a great idea. I typically ask myself “what could I have done differently/better/etc” in situations that go wrong, but rarely think to go to someone else and ask the question of myself-especially not before something goes wrong!!! #challengeaccepted 🙂

  2. Feedback is so important and yet so tricky. Great article reminding us all that while we’re doing a little spring cleaning at home, it’s also a great time to do some spring cleaning in our unknown quadrant of our Johari window.
    My favorite book on feedback is “What Did You Say?: The Art of Giving and Receiving Feedback” by Seashore, Whitfield Seashore, and Weinberg. Great book that dives into use of self.

  3. I like it. Perhaps what rings most true for me is how obviously it would apply to all relationships rather than just at work. Plus, I have the urge to share it with others. I have simple indicators that point out good advice. Thanks for the post.

  4. I like the idea of asking others – “What am I doing right?”. Often when taking over the leadership of teams I have asked each member to list for me (in writing) the positive things they value in each of their colleagues – I have then collated the responses and presented each person with their list of comments, prior to asking how I can best support and work with them going forwards. It’s a great way to kick off your first 1-2-1 or team meeting. I have a similar approach to formal appraisals, where I include actual, positive comments that I have asked from people who interact with people in my team. We are often slow to give praise and acknowledgement where it is due, but developing strengths is easier, usually more productive and more fun, than just focusing on the “areas for development”. Great post Steve – thanks!

  5. Great suggestion, one I’ve used quite a bit just to check the pulse and even during this transitional time, when I didn’t land the job! It’s like a 360⁰ evaluation.

  6. One of those terrible moments at work is when someone sides up to you and says ‘do you mind if I give you some feedback?’ Your heart sinks, because , even if it comes in a good news sandwich, you know you’re in for a drubbing. Steve’s article is a great corrective to that.Take the initiative, go looking for feedback – and get it when you’re feeling resourceful and prepared.

  7. There is always the need for feedback and a good leader will always find an avenue to request feedback and more importantly, implement this strategy to handle both positive and negative feedback.

  8. Absolutely correct – it is extremely crucial (for the good health of the Org) that feedback is always positive, clear and constructive. Even more important is that this concept itself is communicated correctly to the teams…nice article…

  9. Right on target .. and the trick is in how to present the request for feedback in a genuine way that creates a sense of safety. .. well done article. Thanks!

  10. I like it. We may need to grease the skids to get feedback back into our professional day. And after that, it should be as natural as time cards and lunchtime.

  11. If you want to grow and develop as a leader, you need to get good at giving and receiving feedback. You offer some great questions to get us started.

  12. Steve, this is very good. It can be a great way to open up communication channels between groups that perhaps are not seeing eye to eye. Thanks!

  13. Great title. The informative and helpful article provides a fresh look at feedback and a reminder that we all have our “blind spots”. Nice job.

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