Feedback about your performance is important for growth in any role. As a leader, it is crucial. Studies show that the best leaders ask for more feedback, and that leaders who give more honest feedback have more engaged employees. Yet useful feedback is hard to get: the dreaded annual performance appraisal process often provides feedback that is stale and not very actionable. So how do leaders get quick feedback that is actually useful?
Feedback is a particular challenge for leaders
At its best, feedback can be transformative: insights from feedback can greatly increase self awareness, and help uncover potential blind spots. However, according to best selling author Marcus Buckingham, feedback doesn’t work. This is in large part because people are extremely poor raters – our memories are notoriously unreliable; emotion drives our judgement rather than objective, consistent assessments. The bottom line: Everyone is biased, including you and me!
The other challenge is that leadership is hard to define. There are no empirical or universal measures, outcomes, activities or attributes to pinpoint exactly what leadership is – the role of a leader varies according to the context. Like beauty, good leadership is in the eye of the beholder. Think about how the Covid-19 lockdowns and the sudden shift to working from home dramatically changed the context, and each person’s experience of that time was unique. Furthermore, relying on anonymous staff engagement or multi rater (360 feedback) survey for your feedback won’t give you the full context. This is because a) each individual will have different perceptions about the most important questions and b) the answers are averaged out.
“As a leader, what you really need to fuel improvement are timely insights that can drive better conversations”Andy Jenkins, Principal, My Leadership Strengths
What does useful feedback look like?
When it comes to feedback, what we ARE able to provide is our individual perspective about our reactions. In Buckingham’s words, our “instinctive and considered reaction to what worked”. That is at the heart of good feedback. But it is not enough to simply ‘give’ feedback or ‘gather’ feedback. As a leader, you need to be curious about each employees individual perspectives, able to question, listen, interpret and understand the impact that you have. What you really need to fuel improvement are timely insights that can drive better conversations.
How Do Leaders Get Quick Feedback – Top Tips
Often the most powerful feedback conversations are 1:1 discussions. If there is a high degree of trust and psychological safety, the 1:1 is the ideal place for discussing feedback. Good 1:1 conversations are often distinct from formal performance review discussions. Here are some ideas to supercharge your 1:1 conversations:
Agree a Structure
Set up a consistent structure including preparation, discussion, action planning and follow up. This sets the tone for a productive discussion and will enable the best use of time. Every organisation is different, but a good example is from Spotify. They use a 70/20/10 model for their 1:1 development conversations. This is not the same as the learning concept (70% of learning on the job etc). It is about the focus of the conversation: Spend 70% of the time on the future, 20% on the present, and only 10% on the past.
Take a Person Centred Approach
By focusing on building a strong relationship, you are more likely to create the right environment for feedback. One where team members are comfortable to share their perspectives – including their view on you as a leader. The tool below that we have developed at My Leadership Strengths is easy to think about in advance and prompts a good two way discussion. It can help create a strong foundation for learning and feedback conversations.
Integrate useful, relevant data
Asking team members to provide feedback in a 1:1 puts them on the spot, and can limit the value of the feedback. Much better to gather specific feedback in advance, and have time to reflect on it. The QPT+1 tool from My Leadership Strengths is designed to drive conversations. It is a leadership self assessment and feedback survey with a unique approach to prioritising needs. The survey instantly generates personalised reports which include ratings, written comments and practical development advice.
Using the QPT+1 report puts individual leaders control of the development process, because they can choose who to invite for feedback and when. You could get feedback today for a 1:1 discussion tomorrow. Unlike 360 feedback, both rater and participant get a copy of the report immediately. This makes it much more open and transparent, and enables both parties to prepare for a valuable conversation. In this way, feedback is fresh, insights are relevant, and the discussion is actionable.
When it comes to behaviour change, feedback is best framed as a two way process. The idea of ‘giving’ feedback assumes that it is a one way, telling exercise, and that there is an objective judgement to be made. The problem with this view of feedback is that ‘giving’ your view doesn’t foster much (if any) ownership. Indeed, people often have different perceptions of the same behaviour. Lead with a coaching approach, where you use reflection questions to raise self awareness in the other person. This encourages conversation about the intent vs. the impact. Use a tool like Situation, Behaviour, Impact (SBI) as a simple structure to guide feedback discussions. Start with a specific situation, ask about and describe the behaviour in that situation. Then think about the impact the behaviour had, both good and bad. In doing this, you can discuss other behaviours that could lead to an even better impact.
Get quick feedback that is actually useful
If you want to find out more about how to get quick, actionable feedback as a leader, sign up for our mailing list below, or get started today with our QPT+1 feedback tool. Click on the banner below