28/05/2012

By Gavin Meikle, Head Of Learning And Founder Of Inter-Activ

Feedback is the breakfast of champions or so says the famous old saw but it seems to me that most of us have developed a somewhat negative perception of this vital tool. Timely feedback is incredibly useful and can free us from many foolish mistakes but many organisations have evolved a culture where it is shunned or avoided. How can we start to encourage more honest feedback?

We could just start giving out more feedback (I wrote about how to do that using the BOCA formula a few months ago) but here’s a radical thought, what if you started by encouraging your people to give you feedback? What if you actually asked them to share honestly what you did well and what you didn’t?

Their first reaction will probably be incredulity, especially if their perception is that giving you honest feedback could be the slippery slope to a P45. But if you stick to your guns and set up a process for them to give you that feedback you’ll be amazed what useful information you can elicit.

Set up a simple process e.g. get the team to meet on their own without you and come up with a list of comments that they would like you to be aware of.

Get balanced feedback – Ask for two lists. The first, a list of things that you are doing well & that they would like you to start or do more of. The second, a list of what you are doing that annoys them or hinders them doing their job, that they would like you to stop or do less of.

Review the list (ideally with them), asking for any clarification but do not under any circumstances justify or defend yourself. These are their perceptions and you need to be seen to listen to them calmly and dispassionately.

Commit to working on at least one point on each list and ask for their ongoing feedback on whether it is improving or not. NB: Don’t make promises you don’t intend to keep as this will backfire on you.

Repeat the process at an appropriate interval e.g. monthly.

By demonstrating that you value and encourage feedback and act upon it where possible, you are sending a very strong signal to your team that will, if maintained, transform the culture in your organisation.

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