You really should be seeking “authentic” feedback!


Seriously, when was the last time you asked for feedback? How do you ask for feedback? Is your feedback authentic? How do you react to the feedback? Is the feedback the “truth”? How do you know?

While today’s focus is in the context of teams, teams are all made up of relationships. So, what we discuss today can easily be applied to all relationships. Additionally, there are various paths we could go down, however, today I’m going to focus on the means by which you ask for feedback.

Last month, we blogged on Leader Interventions. If you missed it, we encourage you to go back and read or even re-read this post. As you’ll recall, the question was posed: “Chris, we know you have leaders like Jeff call you in to help all the time; however, have you ever been contacted directly by a team who has a challenging leader?” In essence, what they were asking me is if I ever do “leader interventions”. The feedback to this particular post was intriguing. I knew it was a topic many would relate, however, I never know what type of response to expect as I write.

The concept of a “leader intervention” is rooted in the fact that most leaders do a poor job of asking for and receiving authentic feedback. Even if they are asking their teams for feedback, they normally aren’t getting what I call “authentic feedback”. Why? Well, it all boils down to a “lack of trust”. Team members don’t “trust” that if they told their leader what was truly on their hearts that there wouldn’t be repercussion. Thus, the means by which we seek input varies as we seek to increase trust in our relationships. Once trust is established, authentic feedback becomes much easier and is freely given.

I first learned the importance of feedback in the mid-1990’s as I took over leadership of a $30MM processing line with roughly 50 union employees. As a young leader full of energy and little past baggage, I wanted to hear everyone’s ideas of how to improve the process. So, over the course of a few weeks, we called all the teams in, held a brainstorming session, categorized ideas, and had the team “vote” to prioritize the ones we’d focus. While the numbers escape me, I believe we had well over 200 suggestions on how to improve the process. We developed our Top 10 list and went to work. Interestingly, what we discovered was, given ownership, the team members themselves could directly implement the majority of the suggestions. Additionally, the team saw me embrace one suggestion that they had been practically begging others to address. Over the next few months, simply due to my “asking for feedback” and taking ownership of what the team told me they needed, our Top 10 list turned into over 200 suggestions implemented. As a result, this team, and that processing line set records for throughput that may still stand nearly 20 years later.

This story is one of many I would share regarding my personal firsthand experiences as well as coaching relationships I’ve had the privilege of being apart. The catch with this particular example was that I really didn’t have a reason for “distrust” in the environment and most looked at me as just a “kid” with a great heart.

While you are more than welcome and encouraged to do a process like my example above, you may find that the culture isn’t presently at a point where this will bear fruit. How do you know? Or, how do you address? Normally, it starts with an independent 3rd party assessment of you and your team. The assessment normally is going to have to be some type of “depersonalized” feedback. A great starting point we’d recommend is “The Five Dysfunctions of a Team Online Assessment”.

Candidly, while this assessment will help, the majority of your teams are likely at a point where you need someone from the outside to come in and facilitate the process. In our particular case, we just do a much more in depth assessment than The Five Dysfunctions and normally spend a minimum of three months with you and your team. Yes, at an initial glance, it’s going to appear a bit pricey; however, you might want to at least invest in a Five Dysfunctions assessment to allow us to take a look under the hood. We hope we’ll find a healthy culture where “feedback” is being freely given; however, most likely, you’re going to need a little help. If not us, there are a few others we can recommend.

So, what’s stopping you? Will you take a step today to ask for feedback and better engage your team?

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