By Morey Stettner
It’s lonely at the top. And the more power you wield, the less honest feedback you tend to get from those around you.
Some organizations provide structured programs, such as 360-degree feedback, to assure that leaders collect input on their behavior and performance. But it’s even better to gather informal feedback from trusted colleagues.
To extract valuable input from your peers:
Many leaders refrain from asking peers for blunt feedback. Why? They don’t want to appear vulnerable, they may compete with their colleagues rather than view them as supportive allies, or they may not welcome criticism.
“But your peers are often in the best position to help you improve,” said Karin Hurt, chief executive of Let’s Grow Leaders, a Baltimore-based consultancy.
She suggests asking a peer, “My intent is to make a greater contribution to the team. Would you tell me one thing I can do to be more effective on this team?” That’s better than a vague inquiry such as, “Do you have any feedback for me?”
Or you can ask, “I’m seeking to improve my communication skills. What’s one thing I can do to communicate better?”
“The first sentence grounds it in positive intent,” said Hurt, co-author of “Winning Well.” That ups the odds you’ll get more substantive input.
Ask now, not later.
You’re more apt to get meaningful input if you ask for it in a timely manner. Seek feedback as soon as possible after the event in question.
“If you wait too long and say, ‘Remember last week at that meeting? …’ it’s not going to be as fresh in their mind,” Hurt said.
You need not render an instant verdict on the validity of the feedback. Instead, confirm your understanding — and then say something neutral and express your gratitude.
“If you disagree with it, just say ‘that’s interesting’ and ‘thank you,’ ” she said.
Watch your mood.
If you fish for feedback when you’re feeling anxious or angry, you invite trouble. It’s smarter to solicit input when you’re ready to listen with an open mind.
“You want to ask for it when you’re calm and in a position to hear it objectively,” Hurt said.
Model what you want.
Make a habit of offering constructive feedback to your peers. If you’re generous with input, especially positive observations, you set an example for them to emulate.
“Otherwise, they may think why should they do it for you if you don’t do it for them,” Hurt said.
Frame your question positively.
Beware of asking, “What am I doing wrong?” or “I’m unhappy with my performance. Can you help me get back on track?”
Lacing your request with negativity can impair the quality of feedback you receive, warns Bill Hoberecht, vice president of operations at OnPoint Medical Group in Denver. Asking for ways that you can be more effective works better because it encourages peers to offer helpful input.
Once you hear sensible feedback, act on it.
As a manager at a telecom firm in the 1990s, Hoberecht recalls a colleague telling him, “Bill, here’s what I’ve observed about your performance.” But Hoberecht didn’t listen.
“I was arrogant and figured I knew what I was doing,” Hoberecht admitted. “I did not recognize the value of what he said, so I ignored it. Months later, my boss nearly disciplined me for that area of my performance.”
In retrospect, Hoberecht wishes he had treated his peer’s input more seriously instead of disregarding it. But he says the incident served as “a wake-up call” to follow through when colleagues offer constructive feedback.
Read the full article here.
This content was originally published by Investors Business Daily. Original publishers retain all rights. It appears here for a limited time before automated archiving. By Investors Business Daily