3rd Apr 2023
3 Min Read

Three simple feedback rules

Lindsay Kohler
Lindsay Kohler
People & Change

This is an edited excerpt from the best-selling book Even Better If: Building Better Businesses, Better Leaders, and Better Selves.

Growth starts with fine-tuning our focus around what it is we want to improve, and then being clear what improvement looks like. All of us have a blind spot or something we can get better at, and the only way to uncover what it is and grow is by listening to the views of others. And that means feedback. Countless books have been written and leadership programmes developed which teach you the art of delivering feedback. They are smart and well-intended. We know, because in the past we’ve delivered many of them. But here’s the problem.

In most organisations, feedback is pushed. It comes from the person wanting to give the feedback and is pushed onto the person receiving the feedback.

To make matters worse, these exercises are usually done anonymously, thereby reinforcing the very thing that creating a feedback culture is supposedly trying to change. This creates suspicion, negativity and cowardice…not words you see many organisations using to describe their values.

For any form of feedback to work, the most important element is that the recipient is prepared to own and action whatever gets said. That will only happen if they are pulling the feedback — if they are asking for it themselves — rather than it being pushed onto them.

Pulling feedback via “ask, don’t tell”

It’s a simple but extremely powerful exercise where, starting with the leader, each team member asks for specific feedback from the group on a certain subject. This has to be carefully set up in order to work, as the fear and anxiety when people first do this reveals a great deal about the existing leadership culture.

Three simple feedback rules:

  • Be proactive and ask for feedback before you give feedback, (particularly from those who are important to your role and personal success). Always remember that people follow behaviour before strategy, so as the leader it’s important you go first!
  • Be laser focussed about what the feedback relates to. Don’t ask “How can I be a better leader”, it’s too generic. Be specific. Instead ask, “How can I be more effective during our catch ups?” Or, “What can I do better to energise our team Zoom calls?”
  • Show that you have heard the feedback and are doing something with it, no matter what it was. If you ask for feedback, receive it and then do nothing with it, you will lose people’s trust and kill any honesty.

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