Do you crave genuine feedback from your boss about where you stand and what’s getting in the way? How about your peers? If you knew a peer really had your best interest at heart, would you want to hear her feedback, even if it stung?
You’re not alone. Most managers we talk with share that one of their biggest frustrations is not getting the feedback they crave.
One of the biggest places FOSU (fear of speaking up) rears its ugly head is when it comes to giving feedback. After all, if we say nothing, no one gets hurt. Or do they?
The Danger of Not Sharing Feedback
We were leading a Winning Well executive development offsite which began with a leadership panel. “Steve” shared this heart-wrenching story.
I was serving in Iraq. We were headed cross the desert in two hummers. I was in the one leading the way, and the other was close behind.
I noticed that our driver was really driving fast and it didn’t feel right. I was getting more and more nervous. I knew how dangerous this was. But I didn’t want to be a backseat driver, so I kept the feedback to myself. Finally I took out my GPS and tracked our speed. We were going 75 miles an hour on those damaged streets! I still didn’t say anything.
Then my buddy looked back and we realized that the other hummer was no longer behind us. We turned back, and sure enough is flipped.
We lost a man that day.
I’m haunted by the fact that I could have saved his life, if I had just spoken up.
Of course, most situations are not this extreme. But how many times have you watched someone damage their credibility, slow down a project, or destroy team trust because you were afraid to give feedback?
How many times do you think others held back from sharing important feedback with you because they were scared?
How Do I Get Better Feedback?
In this same meeting, we did a quick “Asking For a Friend” hot seat, where participants anonymously wrote down their leadership questions and gave our best spontaneous point of view to address as many as possible.
And in this room of seasoned leaders, in a culture which prides itself on genuinely caring about customers and employees, the most frequently asked question was about how to get and receive genuine feedback.
“How do you get your boss to give you better feedback?”
“How to improve your performance if you’re not getting specific feedback?”
“What if you are only hearing about negative perceptions from others (not your boss)?”
“How do I get my boss to tell me where I stand?”
“How do I get more meaningful feedback from my peers?”
“I really care about my boss, how do I help him see the behaviors that are holding him back?”
“How do I share accountability feedback more effectively with a peer?”
And here’s the thing, every one of their bosses and peers was in that room. The room was full of people craving feedback, and wishing they could help others to improve. They were sitting silent because of FOSU.
Do you think this could be happening where you work too?
If you’re craving feedback, here’s a way to get some more.
7 Ways to Get the Feedback You Crave
1. Ask for the Truth
Set up some time with your boss and peers to really ask for feedback. Avoid the generic, “Do you have any feedback for me?” Or letting them off the hook, by accepting “You’re doing everything just right.”
Ask questions about areas you’re specifically looking to improve.
“What specifically do you think I could do to run our project meetings more effectively and efficiently?”
“I’ve been under a great deal of stress recently, and worry that I might be rubbing some people the wrong way. Is there anything I can do to improve the way I’ve been communicating with you?”
“If you had one piece of advice that could really help me take our team’s performance to the next level, what would that be?”
A great way to do this is through a Do It Yourself 360 Feedback Assessment. Click here to learn how.
2. Say Thank You
When someone shares a hard truth, especially about you, thank the person for having the courage, taking the time, and caring enough to share it with you.
If you ask for input, take time to respond. Even if the ideas aren’t actionable, when you acknowledge that the ideas were heard and considered, you increase the likelihood of hearing more in the future.
4. Never Ever Shoot the Messenger
If someone has the heart and courage to bring you a difficult truth, even if you vehemently disagree, keep your cool. If you attack them, they won’t bring you another concern.
5. Find Your Truth-Tellers
There are people who understand their team, environment, or processes and are willing to voice their observations. Find these people, keep in regular communication, and let them know you value their observations.
6. Check Your Behavior
If you suspect you are not hearing the truth from those around you, it is time to examine how you are interacting with others. Be sure your paying attention to the items on this list.
If you are struggling to see it, ask others for input, find a mentor, or consider a leadership coach.
7. Model It
The best way to get people to tell you the truth is to build a reputation as someone who tells other people the truth–from a place of deep caring with their best interest at heart. If you want more truth tellers, be a truth teller.
It may take time, but if you consistently channel challengers by asking for the truth, showing gratitude for input, and responding to it, you will earn trust, gain credibility, and have the information you need to make the best decisions.
Want to learn more about FOSU, and how to Overcome it?
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Photo credit by Ricardo Lago