Thursday, June 30, 2011

Can You Take the Feedback?

In my blog articles I often suggest that a 360 degree assessment is important in order for personal and professional development. For those who are not familiar with a 360, it is a confidential questionnaire sent to a leader’s direct reports, colleagues, boss, and customers that rates the individual on a series of behaviors, skills and attitudes that are deemed important for success in their leadership role. It helps one identify blind spots and strengths and is a benchmark for professional development. I use the tool extensively in my coaching practice.

If you don’t want to hear feedback though, then a 360 is useless. And it is surprising to know how many leaders do not want to hear feedback. I had one President and company owner tell me forthrightly “I don’t like feedback” when I asked him if he would do a 360. (He didn’t do one.) I’ve also had clients who agreed to the 360 but then dismissed the results with such statements as “They don’t know me very well”, and “I know who said that and they are referring to an isolated incident.”

I have to caution my clients not to try to guess who said what, because invariably they are wrong, and due to confidentiality, I can’t tell them that. I just tell them a story about a VP who was upset about some negative feedback and was certain she knew who it was from. She stormed into her colleague’s office, slammed down the 360 report, and said “I need to talk to you about this.” The other vice president sheepishly looked up at her, reached into his in-box, and pulled out the questionnaire. “I’m sorry I didn’t get to it”, he said.

In one of my volunteer roles I work for someone who hates to receive feedback. Twice in ten years she has asked for written feedback via anonymous questionnaires. I collected the questionnaires and before I gave them to her, I read them (since they included feedback for me too). Every single thing written was positive. But because she hates feedback, it took her a few weeks before she could bring herself to read them, which she finally did only after I told her there was not a single negative comment.

And that is what you will often find, just as my clients do who submit to my 360’s – they get a lot of positive feedback. Sometimes it is surprising to them to know that what they do or say is noticed and appreciated.

As a speaker, trainer, and coach I distribute and read evaluations after every assignment and workshop. Frankly, it is the part of my job I like least. I always take a big breath before reading them, steeling myself for something terrible. Luckily, my dread is usually replaced by relief and a justification that yes, I am in the right job doing good stuff. Once in a while, though, I find myself rationalizing poor feedback – “That person is just not happy in their job” or “I just can’t satisfy everybody.” But I know that due to feedback I have received I have been able to improve my work.

Recently I spoke with a friend who ventured into a new career role as a publicist. She had just finished working with her first client, who, she said, rarely took her advice on things he could do himself to increase his visibility. As a result of course, he didn’t get quite the level of recognition he was expecting.

So if you do ask for feedback or advice be prepared to take action on what you hear. If you don’t ask but get some anyway, then take a hard look at where the advice is coming from. If it is from someone you respect and is experienced in what they are talking about, take the information to heart. It can make a difference in your success.

In another article I wrote about how to gracefully receive – and ask for – feedback. In this one, I just want to encourage you to ask for feedback. Don’t ask if you aren’t going to act on the information. Don’t ask those who you don’t think will tell you the truth. And don’t ask those who aren’t in a position to know you well enough to give you thoughtful feedback.

But if you want to be more successful at what you are doing, do ask.

No comments:

Post a Comment