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What’s Piqued My Interest - 04.02.10

While reading through other blog posts this week I noticed a few themes. In this, my second “elsewhere” post of the week, I look at the posts focused on feedback. Since LeaderNation is a 360 feedback company, feedback is very near to our hearts. (You didn’t know that’s what LeaderNation does? Navigate through our site to find out more.)

At the HBR blog, Amy Gallo discusses upward feedback. She makes the case that honest feedback is more important at higher levels in an organization, though ironically harder to get. In her post, Amy makes the following points:

  • Trust is the key: reflect on your relationship with your boss before offering feedback
  • Don’t give unsolicited feedback, though you can ask if someone is open to feedback
  • If the feedback meets resistance, or your boss gets angry or defensive, take the opportunity (if you feel comfortable doing so) to reflect with your boss on ways the interaction could have went better and how to approach giving and receiving feedback in the future

Amy closes her post with two case studies that are worthwhile to check out.

I have begun to practice the second point above because I have been known to be a bit blunt at times, abrasive at others. I find that asking people if they want my feedback works a lot better than just giving it to them. To facilitate a productive feedback conversation, should someone be willing to accept your feedback, Amy gives some pointers on giving feedback: make sure to give examples, speak from your perspective, and start with the good.

Learning how to give feedback was tough for me. (Perhaps that’s why I chose to help others with this.) One thing I have worked on is starting with the positive. At first this practice felt disingenuous given my natural style, though over time it has become more natural for me. The key was to find a way to incorporate this behavior in a way that fit with my values and personality. I am still working on it, though it is a lot easier now than it was. I would make an addition to Amy’s suggestions: make feedback behaviorally-based. She suggests saying something like, “you came across as bullying.” I would suggest saying, “you didn’t ask for other people’s opinions,” or, “you didn’t allow room for others to participate.” Feedback that is behaviorally-based is much easier to accept, avoids passing judgment and adding in personal bias, and gives the receiver specific behaviors to work on. (See bullet point number one under top ten best practices located in our pdf here for reasons why making feedback behaviorally-based is important).

On a related topic, Mark Suster has this message for us all: Don’t be a grin f%&$er. (Mark has the readership and loyalty to risk offending some people (and search engines) with vulgar language, I do not, so “f%&$er” is as close to a Joe Biden moment as I will get.) What Mark is asking us to do is to tell the truth even when it isn’t easy. If your organization is doing something stupid, tell someone. If you aren’t going to follow through on a commitment, don’t make it in the first place. People appreciate those who have the courage to speak openly and honestly. Just remember, honest doesn’t mean unnecessarily blunt or hurtful. Tact is always appreciated and political acumen is not necessarily a bad thing.

Steve Roesler continues the feedback theme and reinforces Amy’s point that trust, or lack thereof, is one of the biggest reasons it is so hard to give and receive feedback. Steve also urges us not to make feedback a once-a-year occurrence. Constant and open feedback is the best way to create a culture where people are continually improving and where surprises (especially bad ones) do not remain hidden until it is too late to correct the course. Steve ends with some suggestions on how to keep the lines of communication open.

In the wake of last month’s political circus, Ron Ashkenas challenges your organization to be bipartisan. The hope of creating constructive controversy is to uncover the best solutions while gaining buy-in from all parties. Ron suggests a few rules of thumb to help the process. I would add in a special reminder to be aware of conflict. Conflict is not a bad thing, necessarily. There are two types of conflict that come up in these circumstances: task conflict and interpersonal conflict. So long as it is managed well, task conflict can be a great source of creativity. When task conflict bleeds into interpersonal conflict, you have a problem. Good listening skills and productive feedback mechanisms can go a long way towards mitigating this risk. In a separate post, Jane Perdue at Life, Love & Leadership gives some great tips on how to respond when you run into conflict. I would summarize Jane’s pointers thusly: take a breath and be an adult. Easier said than done.

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