10/04/2012

By Gavin Meikle, Head Of Learning And Founder Of inter-activ

I run a number of communication skills and team leadership workshops and a frequent topic of conversation is feedback. Mostly people ask what they can do to be better at giving feedback to others. It occurred to me that one question that almost never get asked is “how can I encourage my team to give me honest feedback?”

Think about it for a moment. We want to be better at giving feedback to others but are we willing to receive it ourselves and are we prepared to take the risk of actually encouraging or even asking for it?

Communication is a two way street and one of the best ways to create a more positive culture around feedback is to practice what you preach and show that a) you actually value honest feedback and b) are prepared to listen to it and even act upon it where possible.

I was lucky, I had a boss who taught me the value of encouraging listening to and acting upon feedback from my team. I still remember the day it first happened. We were having a sales team meeting and the next item on the agenda was feedback. We had assumed it meant that he was going to give us feedback and we were mentally steeling ourselves for a telling off. Instead he explained that it was he who wanted feedback and he wanted us to give it openly and honestly.

Well after the shock had worn off we listened as he explained the process he wanted us to follow. He would leave the room for 15 minutes and we were discuss him as a group and create two lists on a flip chart.

1. The specific things that he did that we appreciated and that we wanted him to keep doing or more of.

2. The specific things that he did that we didn’t appreciate or that drove us nuts or that made our job more difficult and that we would ideally like him to stop doing or do less of.

When the 15 minutes was up he would return to the room and a member of the group would present our feedback to him. And that’s exactly what happened. To be honest we were all a bit nervous about how he would take our feedback but he did so very well. He didn’t defend himself or try to justify his behaviours, he just listened and sometimes asked some questions to clarify what we meant.

Then, at our next quarterly team meeting, he repeated the process and asked us to comment on whether anything had improved, and lo and behold, it had. He had listened and acted upon some of our suggestions.

So how about you? Would you have the courage to ask your team to give you feedback in this or indeed any other way? How would you take it if they told you somethings you didn’t want to hear? How would you respond if they also told you some of the things that you did that they liked or appreciated?

Imagine the effect this could have on your performance as a manager and think about how your behaviour might effect other people’s attitude to receiving feedback themselves.

Remember feedback isn’t a one way street!