Soliciting and accepting feedback graciously are skills that distinguish successful and effective individuals. Yet many people have not had the benefit of learning these skills. Your employees are likely among them. In this excerpt from Help Them Grow or Let them Go, we provide you with great questions to help your employees get started on these important, but sometimes challenging feedback conversations.
Since the act of opening one’s self up to the opinions of others can be challenging, the agenda for such a discussion should be simple—as straightforward as ABC. Encourage employees to focus on just three things as they gather feedback from others: abilities, blind spots, and conditions.
The ABC’s of Soliciting and Accepting Feedback:
- What are my greatest strengths?
- Which of my skills are most valuable?
- What can you always count on me for?
- What value do I bring?
- What behaviors have you observed that might get in my way?
- How have I fallen short of expectations?
- How might my strengths work against me?
- What one change could I make that would have the greatest positive effect on my success?
- In what settings or under what circumstances do I make the greatest contributions?
- Under what conditions have you observed me struggling?
- Do I tend to perform best when working with others or flying solo?
- What factors have you noticed trigger stress or other negative reactions for me?
These specific, concrete questions demand more specific, concrete responses. They generate considerably more actionable information than the lazy feedback default question “How am I doing?”—which normally generates a tepid thumbs up.
So work with employees to select a question or two from each category to use as the starting point for feedback conversations with individuals in their career networks. Then, be prepared to debrief these conversations. At first, people might need help overcoming the natural human response to focus on the data that validates their existing worldview. They may need help evaluating multiple perspectives to recognize and identify common threads and themes. They may need help making sense of seemingly contradictory information. Investing time with others to process feedback sends a strong message to employees and provides you with additional information to support that person’s growth.
As you can imagine, live, face-to-face feedback conversations are ideal. But, given today’s distributed workforce, employees may need to resort to virtual means—phone or webchat. Whatever form it takes, this sort of real-time interaction can surface valuable information while strengthening relationships.
Greater awareness and stronger relationships support career development. In this way, feedback really does help employees grow where they are, so they won’t go and grow somewhere else. As a bonus, they develop a critical skill that leads to greater success on the job and in life. And, if you have an online tool that you love, keep using it—in addition to, not instead of, conversation.