Leadership for Life – How to Get Honest Feedback

By on September 15, 2012
How to Get Honest Feedback

Our Leadership experts will be sharing tips and insights for everyone, at any station in life, at both home and work. Leadership for Life – the skills you embrace represent who you really are at all times.

I recently came across an excellent article on how to get senior leaders to change (http://blogs.hbr.org/cs/2012/06/how_to_get_senior_leaders_to_c.html) and it led to my thinking that before anyone can change – or think they should change – they need some accurate feedback about their behavior.

If you subscribe to the idea that feedback serves two primary purposes – to reinforce good behavior or to change ungood (not necessarily bad) behavior – then the feedback recipient needs to know what s/he is doing right and what s/he is doing wrong.

As you might expect, there are hundreds of articles in a variety of publications that will provide you with advice on how best to give feedback. Most methods fall into a simple model: Feedback should be specific, balanced, and timely if it is to be effective in either reinforcing or changing behavior.

Several months ago I began using a very simple feedback model in requesting comments on my own performance in training situations. I can’t take credit for inventing it, but I can’t remember where I first learned about it. If anyone recognizes it, please let me know where it comes from and I’ll be happy to give credit where it is due.

Are you ready? Here it is:

Ask your target group to fill in the blanks on the following three statements. When you get the completed forms (which should be returned in hard copy to a physical inbox), read them carefully and put into effect any changes you can. Communicate later (soon!) with the entire group and inform them about which changes you have made and which ones you cannot or will not make – and why. Thank them for their input. Repeat every three months.

The three statements:

(your name), please stop _____________________________________________________.

(your name), please start _____________________________________________________.

(your name), please keep on __________________________________________________.

As we know, people resist giving really honest feedback to high ranking managers and executives, mainly because of the risks of giving offense and suffering the consequences. The method outlined above gets around this concern by allowing people to use a word processor and deliver hard copy anonymously, rather than sending email responses or delivering it in person.

While the method doesn’t fix everything, it can make enough of an impact so that the key behavior – asking for and acting on honest feedback – is modeled for the organization, and leads to more open communication and trust, as well as more effective behavior, within and among all work teams at all levels.

Are you using any other feedback model to get honest feedback? If so, let me know what it is. Comment below, call me at 314-539-5329 or email me at bschapiro@stlcc.edu.

About Barry Schapiro

Barry is the Workforce Solutions Group Practice Leader for Leadership and Professional Development. His experience includes delivery and management of business training in a variety of industries, with specialties in leadership, team development, generational diversity, and customer service. Twitter

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