Being offered feedback is an invitation to listen to the conversation around you.

Feedback isn’t a document. Feedback isn’t something that people create for a special occasion, like a performance review. It’s getting access to what people are saying. People talk about people all the time, and if you’re a leader, people are talking about you.

People tend to hate feedback. They would rather not know what others think of them. But if you’re a leader, that’s the wrong attitude. You have to know what’s going on. You have to know what works, and what doesn’t work. You have to know what people like, and what they need, and what they want to try. Leaders are constantly frustrated that people don’t tell them important things. They wonder why. But remember that you make the decisions, and you affect the workplace in tremendous ways. So, to get information about how the organization is going, you’re really asking for information about yourself and your decisions. That’s feedback.

How do you request feedback? You find someone whose opinion you respect, and you ask a question. Ask only one. It should be something like:

  • What’s the one thing I can do to be more helpful to you?
  • What’s the one thing that you’re not sure that I know that’s important for me to know?
  • If I were to hire you as my coach, what’s the first piece of advice you’d give me?
  • If you were to advise me on how to be more effective in this organization, what’s the first thing you would tell me to do?
  • What’s the one thing that I do that tends to frustrate people or let them down and I’m not aware of it?

And when you get your answer, you thank them verbally, and you use your body language to thank them, and you follow up with an email the next day to thank them again. And then a week later, you tell them what you’re doing based on the comment they gave you, and you say, “I’d love if you ever had an idea on how to help me, if you would share it with me.” Now you’ve shown them that you have listened to them, and that you will act on what they said, and that they will not suffer any consequences. Now they believe you.

If we’re invited to listen to the conversation around us, we must remember that the way we respond dictates whether we are kept in the conversation, or bumped out.

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