The art of receiving feedback is under valued I fear, especially when it appears negative or even worse, a personal attack.
A long time ago when working for a brewery, I was singled out during a company meeting and asked for my candid feedback on a series of adverts the Marketing Director had showcased for the team prior to airing on national TV. This was during a period of time when the competition was running very funny and engaging adverts which were often better than the TV shows.
The Marketing Director specifically singled me out, probably due to my unimpressed facial expression, and asked me for an honest appraisal. So, I politely shared my opinion; I thought they were crass, sexist and a pale imitation of other ads within the industry.
Maybe my delivery was way too blunt or maybe I was just extremely naïve in sharing my candid feedback. Because what followed next was a highly embarrassing and brutal verbal attack in public, for which he later apologised.
Or it could be, the Marketing Director wasn’t expecting nor was ready for receiving feedback that was not positive and therefore unarmed to deal with it in a more appropriate way. He’s not alone, I’ve witnessed several similar events in the last few years, where leaders on a high have asked for questions during Town Hall meetings or similar, only to go straight on the attack should a delegate raise an issue or concern they didn’t see coming.
Yet, it’s important to keep all communication channels open, to encourage team members to speak up and air their voice. To hear what is good, bad and especially downright ugly in the workplace. Otherwise, how do we continue to make improvements in the workplace?
Here are 6 tips to consider for anyone planning to ask teams for honest and candid feedback in an open live forum, and not see employees walk away . Or in fact for everyone who can expect to receive feedback of one kind or another in 2020…which should be all of us!
- Stay calm
- To be a true leader we need to be open to criticism and feedback is an opinion, at best an opportunity to learn, grow and improve
- Count to 5 and then smile (nicely) while you count to another 5
- Buy a little time and let any red mist clear before forming a response.
- Remember it’s not personal!
- Try not to see any negative feedback as veiled criticism of yourself, it most probably isn’t personal. But on the off chance it is, all the more reason to stay calm, self-assured and objective before delivering a thoughtful and logical answer.
- Consider if this might be a smoke signal?
- Often one brave soul may be voicing the thoughts of many. Is there some small fire of discontent that is at risk of raging into a forest fire if not swiftly extinguished? Be sure to check the pulse of the workforce to see if they share the same concerns and if so, take swift action and be sure to show you have listened to the voice of the employees.
- Provide an opportunity for attendees to raise questions in advance
- Giving you forewarning of any tricky topics that may arise and time to consider your approach.
- Let the stars shine
- Where good feedback is received, take the opportunity to show appreciation to those stars who contributed to the success and make the workplace a better place.
It’s a long time ago since my incident with the Marketing Director. If placed in the same position again, I would give the same honest feedback, but probably in a more discreet setting and go to great lengths to try and ensure it’s not seen as a personal attack! As for the people I have witnessed go through a similar experience…it’s probably no surprise to learn they didn’t hang around for long and have all since moved on.
Keep your finger on the pulse with Engage and avoid any unwelcome surprises in your next team meetings.
For more great communication tips for you and your teams, check out How to be a Better Communicator written by Chris Carey of Axiom Communications.