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5 Tips to Get the Feedback You Need Now

Arrows No. 4 by Clonny on Flickr.com

Leaders need more feedback than ever – and they’re less likely to get it.

You need more feedback because chances are, if you still have your leadership job, you’re doing what used to be two or three jobs. Regional sales VPs are now also running channel partnerships. The US director of R&D has taken on worldwide responsibility. The office manager is somehow also covering the accounts payable vacancy. Chances are you don’t even know what you don’t know about some of these roles. Plus, with your market environment in flux, hard decisions are coming your way faster than ever.

You want to know whether the exec team is sitting on your product development recommendations because they’re waiting for a market signal or because they don’t trust your data. You want to know whether those silent nods at the end of meetings means your team members agree and are rushing off to go implement, or they’re confused by what you said and are awaiting more clear direction. You want to know right away if the subject matter expert two levels below and one across believes you’re about to wade into an avoidable mess.

However, in this down economy, you’re even less likely to get feedback up, down, or sideways. You can’t count on informal feedback, as people may be afraid of annoying anyone in power, especially while layoff lists are being formulated. You may not even get formal feedback, as review cycles are disrupted by job changes, and some large companies are trimming their annual 360 processes.

Here’s how you can get the feedback you need:

  1. Ask.
    Good questions include “What am I doing that’s helping you accomplish X?” “When am I a roadblock to you and your team?”  “How might I screw this up?” “What issues or people should I be giving more attention?”
  2. Ask often.
    The higher up you are the more you have to ask for it.
  3. Ask widely.
    Talk to people in functions upstream and downstream to what you do.
  4. Initiate it yourself.
    Don’t wait for an annual process to get upward feedback. If you can’t hire an exec coach, arrange for a trusted peer to interview your team and summarize key messages back up.
  5. Respond tremendously well.
    Fastest way to kill your feedback channel: downplay the feedback, even slightly, verbally or non-verbally. Here’s a simple chart on how to respond well to feedback.

Finally, make sure your team members are also getting feedback – from you and others across your organization. Ask them what feedback channels they’ve put in place for themselves, how they’re using the feedback, and what you can do to support their learning. By showing your appetite for hearing feedback and using it well, you shift your company’s culture from “pretending I know it all” toward “let’s learn how to be more and more successful.”

That mindset shift may be enough to determine who makes it to the upturn.

For more on how CEOs are driving feedback for themselves and across the organization, see
Weekly Leader Podast 1 with Peter Aceto, CEO of ING-Direct, Canada
NYT Corner Office interview with Kevin Sharer, CEO, Amgen

Photo credit: Arrows No. 4 by Clonny on Flickr.com

About the author

Pam Fox Rollin Pam Fox Rollin is a valued thought-partner to corporate and NGO leaders navigating their organizations through complex change. Her work as an Executive Coach and Speaker draws on 20 years experience, including strategy consulting (Bain, Accenture), management education (Guest Fellow, Stanford GSB), leadership research, and community leadership. You can also find Pam on her Twitter page and company IdeaShape Coaching & Consulting

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Posted in General Leadership, Toolbox.