The ABCs of Giving and Seeking Feedback that Really Works
Apathy resents and rejects feedback, but everyone who cares to improve wants to know how they’re doing.
Feedback is essential for growth and development. The only way to grow is to receive feedback that works.
Humble aspiration craves useful feedback.
#1. Never begin feedback by saying, “I have some advice for you.”
Feedback isn’t advice, although the process of development may include giving and seeking advice.
Unrequested advice typically receives resistance.
#2. Never seek feedback by asking a stupid question like, “How am I doing?”
The answer to “How am I doing?” is subjective. The next person you ask may have a contradictory response. What will you do then?
The question, “How am I doing?” is an invitation to let other people lead your life.
Feedback is never punishment. The singular goal of feedback is improvement.
Feedback enables people to see themselves in relation to their own values. Useful feedback enables people to move toward their own goals.
Effective feedback empowers.
The ABCs of useful feedback:
Julie Winkle Giulioni recently published, The ABCs of Soliciting and Accepting Feedback. I’ve adapted her approach below.
- What do you see me doing when I’m most energized?
- What strengths or skills enable my most important contribution?
- What can you always count on me for? Giulioni
- How might I get in my own way?
- How might my strengths work against me? Giulioni
- What am I missing? (Put this in a context like leading meetings.)
- What do I complain about?
- What’s happening when I’m at my best?
- What situations seem to drain me? Energize me?
Tip: Adapt the above questions when you give feedback. For example, “You seem most energized when you ________.” Include the follow-up, “What makes that so energizing for you?”
When seeking feedback, what questions work best for you?
When giving useful feedback, what has worked best for you?
Help them Grow or Watch them Go, Beveryly Kaye & Julie Winkle Giulioni
Ready to fix feedback? Then let’s go “kick some ask!” | Leadership Freak
The ABC’s of Effective Feedback – A Peer-Reviewed Academic Articles | GBR (pepperdine.edu)
How to give better feedback: 3 tips for leaders | The Enterprisers Project
When seeking feedback, what questions work best for you?
Be specific–What is one thing you think I could do to improve the clarity of my writing?
When giving feedback…
1. Start by asking–What was your goal?
2. How do you think you did?
3. What’s one thing you think you could have done better or would do differently next time.
4. Are you open to hearing one suggestion from me?
When you give suggestions, be specific, provide an example or demonstrate your suggestion, if possible.
Thanks Paul. Love the idea of clarifying goals before giving feedback. It doesn’t help to give a chef feedback about driving race cars.
Great Paul. I agree, check what their goal is/was first … it may be that what you see as an area to improve is what they are hoping for as a goal.
I use a feedback-syntax:
1. Start with what works and underline with concrete observings your reciever shares with you.
2. Clear the one most effective point for improvements. What is it about? Why do you think it needs improvement? Avoid more fields for improvement – the reciever often cannot devide or prioritise when getting live advice. One is enough.
3. … but not least: Tell why you think the reciever can fix it. Give examples where he did or name competencies he has already to improve.
Can I add that it is easy to lie and flatter people so they like you or conversely, to tell the blunt truth in a way that tears people down. Feedback that tells the truth in love, to build up and encourage to do better is a real skill.
[My comments haven’t appeared. Bit surprised! Posted yesterday]
Sorry to hear that Dr. Asher. This one did! Maybe things are OK now?
“Never seek feedback by asking a stupid question like, ‘How am I doing?’
The answer to ‘How am I doing?’ is subjective. The next person you ask may have a contradictory response. What will you do then?”
As a blanket statement, calling this a “stupid question” is, to be kind, an overly broad condemnation. What is the alternative? Letting our teams know we don’t care what they think about how we’re doing?
I have never found this question to be “stupid.” When I ask “How am I doing?” I am looking for the other person’s perspective, and anticipate a subjective response. I am not asking it to “let other people lead my life.” What kind of weak “leader” would be so easily influenced, or be so unable to parse valuable insight from mere opinion? We often gain new insights from the perceptions of others, or at least I always have. It is important to know how our actions -and performance- as leaders are perceived by those we lead. Perhaps we can better shape those perceptions, but only if we know what they are.
The question certainly shouldn’t be the only tool in our toolbox, but it has its uses.
Thank you Jim. I can’t tell you how much I enjoyed your response to the idea of not asking, “How am I doing?” I am still convinced that specific questions are better than broad. But, you articulated an important idea. If we seek to know the broad perceptions of others then “How am I doing” is one way to find out.
My experience with leaders who seek feedback is that it is mostly useless. One reason is people don’t tell them the truth in the first place. Or, some people have a n ax to grind. For those reasons and a few others, I work with them to get feedback that might actually help.
In any case, I’m delighted to read your response.
Thank you for your feedback!
It is indeed often hard to get useful feedback, although making the effort is mandatory.
A couple of times in my career, I replaced folks who had been relatively ineffective in leadership roles, and one of the obstacles I faced was convincing my people that I really did care and really wanted their feedback. This was basically a trust-building process. I found that if I was sufficiently “on top of things” in my areas of responsibility, I was seldom caught completely by surprise by any feedback I received. It’s sort of like the Olympic gymnastics scores; you have to (at least mentally) throw out the low and the high marks to get an accurate score! Also, concerning “axe-grinders,” I generally found those folks easy to identify and their self-serving feedback could be taken with the appropriate measure of salt.
Generally, the best feedback I received was during purposeful MBWA, not actually asking for feedback but carefully observing folks at their jobs and learning about the little frustrations and obstacles that prevented them from being as effective as they could be. Many times an inexpensive piece of equipment, a small procedural adjustment or a better communication process could pay big dividends for productivity and reducing frustration.
Late in my career, I did a lot of liaison with other agencies in the system (courts, prosecutors, probation, etc.) to reduce problems, mistakes and misunderstandings arising from conflicting policies. procedures and processes among agencies. A few times this involved making changes in our own organization, but more often we were able to show those other agencies better methods that we had learned, and that a “because we’ve always done it that way” attitude was frequently the biggest obstacle keeping them from making much-needed progress.
I used to teach Leadership Development courses for law enforcement, and in my opening session, before we delved into the nuts and bolts of the class, I always pointed out that poor leadership is ubiquitous in our society across business, industry and government. We would then consider the tangible and intangible costs of bad leadership for organizations generally and for our occupation in particular. We followed this up by discussing how good leadership could help reduce those costs, and other ways that better leadership could impact the organization. Then we began to explore traits of good leaders and so forth.
Having a passion for leadership can be both a blessing, for obvious reasons, and a curse, as it is hard to “turn off,” which is inconvenient at times. Thanks for your continued passionate efforts to spread good leadership practices!
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