Using Feedback for Growth

by | Leadership, Team Development

Originally posted on Leadr

Today, more than ever, managers and leaders have access to employee feedback on a variety of subjects. Whether it’s via company efforts like surveys and chat tools, or external vehicles like Glassdoor, the employee has a voice like never before.   

So, what do we do with this information? How we respond to employee feedback is more critical than getting it. In fact, not acting or acknowledging feedback can be more harmful than not getting it at all.  

So, let’s look at three critical approaches to feedback.  

1. Slow Down & Listen

What, really? If we get feedback, didn’t that mean we listened to it? No, not at all. We are often so busy that while we might “hear” what was said, we seldom really stop and listen.

For starters, do we consider what is really being said? Would we consider the feedback to be specific, or temporary? Does it imply that there are deeper or more complex issues behind the feedback? No matter what subject the feedback is, or how we receive it, it is valuable and should be carefully considered.

Feedback can give us clues as to whether our mission, vision or values are resonating with our people. Are we taking time to celebrate and recognize accomplishments? Oftentimes, positive feedback about an idea or outcome can be a signal that we need to slow down and ensure that we are reinforcing when things go well. The key is that we are often in information overload, and that can make us quick to make assumptions about what we hear. We can quickly dismiss information that does not align with our conceptions, and that will cause us to miss the value of the feedback. Slow down and listen.   

2. Create a Feedback Loop  

When our employees care enough to give us feedback, it’s critical that we acknowledge that feedback, and create a loop where we ask for clarification, get more insights and ensure that they know we listened and value it. This can be done in a variety of ways. If the feedback is more general, or comes through anonymous channels, setting up and conducting focus groups to help gather further insights can provide a great opportunity for deeper engagement. Everyone wants to feel valued and have their opinions matter! Sometimes it’s as simple as thanking the team for their feedback, stating what you heard, and asking for more.

What we all want to know when we provide feedback, whether that be constructive or positive, is that it is acknowledged. On an individual basis, when one of your people gives you feedback, especially if this feedback is constructive, we almost always find ourselves feeling defensive. This is natural and normal. But as leaders, we never want to shut down this essential feedback loop, so start practicing pausing and simply saying, “Okay, tell me more.” This simple phrase can open up the dialog and give you enough time to collect your thoughts and actively listen. No matter what, when you receive feedback, remember that it’s a gift and engage in a dialog to ensure that the loop is active.  

3. Take Action

Taking action when appropriate is not only important but required. This doesn’t mean that every piece of feedback needs to be acted on. Rather, when action is taken as a result of the feedback, connect the dots! I cannot tell you how many times I have heard employees say that “we gave feedback and nothing changed,” only to hear managers say “we did make changes!” What happened? Well, often the actions that were taken were not visibly connected to the feedback received.

One simple way to ensure that the action you take is ascribed to the feedback provided is to introduce changes with the phrase: “As a result of your feedback, we are making the following changes…,” or something to that effect. Look for easy wins when you receive feedback from your team. If the feedback involves changes that better enable your team to do their best work, whether that is a shift in working conditions or how meetings are done, these are the kinds of changes to make a priority! There may be some feedback that can’t be acted on for a variety of reasons, but this does not mean that we don’t take action. Action may be in the form of explaining why something can’t happen, or why not now.  

Your people don’t expect that every bit of feedback leads directly to change, but if we listen, create the feedback loop to acknowledge the input and take action when we can, we will see the results, and most importantly, continue to have engaged employees willing to share their input. As a wise person once told me, “While it may be uncomfortable to get a lot of feedback, especially if this is constructive, it’s when your best people go silent that you really have to worry.” Keep the feedback coming, as it’s an indication that your people care about the organization and what they are doing! 

Leadr has made it even easier to access direct input through documented feedback, regular one-on-one meetingscustomized leadership developmentutilizing personal strengths, and goal setting (AKA Leadr's 5 core pillars). And with Leadr, you can do that all in one platform. 

Leadr’s people development software is all about improving two-way feedback between you and your team members to encourage development for every individual, resulting in a more effective organization all around. Make feedback a rhythm on your team. Request a demo to see Leadr in action. 

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