How to be approachable to direct feedback
How often do you hear or ask for direct feedback?
Being open and receptive to direct feedback is a vital leadership skill - but do we make it easy for people especially of we are the boss?
Have you ever been in a situation where you know someone wants to say something to you but they are tying themselves in knots beating around the bush? Have you ever seen your team exchange smirks or silent looks in meetings? You have some choices. You can stand or sit there looking bewildered and then walk away, scratching your head, none the wiser. You can ignore them totally and plough on regardless. Or you can make it easy for them to spit it out and give you direct feedback, or whatever it is they want to say to you, which is clearly making them feel uncomfortable.
Sometimes you may not like what you are going to be told.
Many people don’t like to deliver direct feedback if they feel there is a negative component and especially to their boss. If you are a leader it’s your responsibility to create a climate where it’s OK to give direct feedback, even if you are above the person in the food chain. Being open to receiving direct feedback is the hallmark of a good leader and a necessary leadership skill. Having a reputation and being recognised as a person who will listen to constructive and direct feedback is rooted in confidence. It means that you are willing to learn and embrace growth opportunities and have the necessary skills to learn from the information. It’s also about being approachable and receptive.
10 tips to encourage direct feedback
When someone approaches you here is what you can do:
- Observe their body language. Do they seem nervous or uncomfortable?
- Adjust your own body language. Adopt an open posture, smile, put your arms in a welcoming position rather than defensively across your body.
- Listen to what the person is saying without comment or judgement. If you are unclear what their intention is, or even what the content of their point is, move to point 4.
- Ask open-ended questions for clarity if you are still confused. Ask “Help me understand.”
- Remain neutral – process the input, once again without comment. If you need more time to reflect say so.
- Accept their input without agreeing or denying anything, if that is what you need to do. If they are right say so.
- Thank them - regardless of whether you agree with them they have given you valuable input on their perception and experience. That in its self is a lesson especially if it’s from a report.
- Do not rage, deny or become defensive - that is a self-sabotaging path which serves no one well, but stifles the constructive communication process in the future. It makes you appear unapproachable a key characteristic of executive presence.
- Follow through - if there are any actionable points make sure they happen. If you are not going to heed their input tell the person why.
- Give credit - if you have changed your strategy, opinion or course of action as a result of direct feedback, give that person credit. It contributes to creating a culture where direct feedback and constructive communication is encouraged.
Without this input, your personal development can be impacted and the goals and objectives of your team jeopardized. Why put that at risk? Or better still become a person who routinely asks your team for feedback with open-ended questions about what you can do for them and how you can best support them.
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