Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Model How to Ask For and Receive Feedback Gracefully

When I became a parent, I suddenly became very conscious of my table manners. I religiously buckled my seat belt. I watched my mouth. Being a parent is a lot like being a leader: you are under constant observation. You are a role model and your behavior is the best illustration of how you want others to behave. You aren’t perfect, so acknowledging that by asking and acting on feedback goes a very long way toward building trust and respect on your team.

Observing leaders welcome and act on feedback is inspiring to those around them. One of the skills you can model to your employees is how to ask for and receive feedback. Three simple questions should be the standard for your discussions with your employees, both one-to-one and in team meetings:

1. What I can do differently that will help you (us) succeed?
2. What can I stop doing that will increase your (our) chances of success?
3. What can I start doing that I haven’t been doing that will make you (us) more successful?

Ask these questions during their performance reviews, before starting projects, when debriefing projects, and at least twice a year to each employee.

When you get their feedback, model how to receive it. Simply say, “Thank you. I appreciate your honesty and thoughtfulness.” You don’t have to make promises that you will change. You don’t have to say you will think about what they have said. The best way to respond is by your actions. Do make sure you understand the feedback and ask for clarity or examples if you don’t. Then next time you sit down with them let them know what you have been doing differently in response to their feedback. That lets them know that you listen well, take what they have to say seriously, and are committed to personal and professional development. And as a result they will be more likely to be honest in their feedback to you.

By showing that you welcome constructive feedback, modeling how to receive it in a non-defensive manner, and then acting on it, your team members will be more open to it too. They will learn how to ask for and expect feedback from their colleagues as well as you. And that makes for a more productive team.

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