Great leaders have a genuine curiosity to solicit feedback from their team members. But has this sheer thought alone already made you break into a sweat of resistance?
Often leaders have a genuine discomfort with soliciting regular feedback or dreading the uncomfortable silence that results from asking for upward feedback. Maybe they even have their arsenal of knee-jerk fear reactions ready to challenge any whiff of ego challenge with defensiveness or excuse justification.
The vacant space of feedback in teams is a lonely place at times. It is often a symptom of low psychological safety, unbalanced hierarchy hurdles or passive avoidance in play with very awkward moments.
When was the last time your team voluntarily challenged your big ideas or clarified how to best resolve an internal situation or business dilemma you are experiencing? Gain the perspective of the team and the consumers of your leadership. It is the best measure of how your leadership is landing during change.
You are the expert on your intentions. Everyone around you is the expert on your impact. So lead strongly by marrying purpose with impact.
As a leader, self-awareness is the foundational skill to realise when people require something different from us. What do your team need from you right now? How can you adapt your behaviour or influencing style to meet their changing needs? Your leadership style can’t stay static. It needs to be many colours of masterful leadership art. Feedback is the only way to see your blind spots and to shine a clear pathway light on how to do things differently.
As Kim Scott from Radical Candour suggests, with the feedback, we need to care personally and challenge directly, guided by the principle to “Get It before you Give It.” Solicit feedback first openly before you deal it out to your team. Feedback conversation is a two-way flow, not a one-way torrent of a downward stream. It is about opening up space for the conversation around what could potentially change to meet the need to create a more significant impact.
Recently I was facilitating learning with a diverse group of leaders and managers from across a regional council. We challenged each other on the opportunities for “getting” candid feedback in their respective teams and how valuable the input was to make a proactive change. Many shared they had felt the pain of feedback fails. But on the other hand, others had been influenced by strong leaders who shaped their careers through direct and honest feedback. But is all feedback we get helpful? What is just white noise or bias? How can we encourage a speak-up culture within our group, where staff voluntarily provide and ask for feedback informally?
3 Tips for Getting Feedback
Tip 1: Reframe feedback as a growth opportunity
We have a choice of what feedback we act on. Triage feedback to see how it best applies to proactive change. What can you learn from the input, even if you disagree? Reframe and reflect on what rings true.
Tip 2: Consciously listen to the person taking the risk of speaking up on your behalf, practice gratitude
Be present for the feedback moment, and listen with all your senses to learn. Thank them in the now. Acknowledge the team member’s courage and openness to speak up and take a risk. Be sure to follow up on any actions with them with sincere thanks creating habits of change.
Tip 3: Be a curious questioner to avoid being defensive
Avoid the temptation to jump in and stamp the feedback out with justification or defensive explanation. Shutting down feedback is a missed opportunity that ultimately destroys psychological safety, breeding teams operating in the anxiety or apathy zones.
Lean in with curiosity and empathy rather than sparking fears. Ask open questions for discovery to gain clarity on what is being spoken or not being spoken. Fear clouds clarity and triggers our internal radio to blast out the true message intent of the lyrics. Resist the urge to push back or shut down. The quality of your questions sets the quality of the radical candour you receive.
Know that the best leaders are feedback attractors. They actively practise the skill of getting actionable feedback. Solicit feedback to discover your leadership blind spots. Ask your team for feedback; they already have the pot of gold feedback for you to grow together. Create a welcoming space to foster change with intention and impact.