In our lives we often know what is “good for us,” and yet we don’t do it. Eating healthy. Getting enough sleep. Disconnecting with our phone and connecting with loved ones instead. As a leader, you may know it is “good for you” to go out and get feedback from your team – sustaining a safe, candid feedback loop will contribute to more creativity, growth, trust, and well-being for all of you. Still, you may not go out and do it. Don’t waste your time feeling bad about that, spend it uncovering and removing the roadblocks that are in your way.
Feedback conversations can feel risky for everyone involved, your team will have their own set of roadblocks that make them hesitant to give you the feedback you seek. The fact that you have more power in the relationship does create a distinct set of reasons why you’d rather shy away from asking for feedback even if you know the benefits. Take some time to identify what’s getting in your way, and remember that your reasons might change depending on the nature of your relationship to the team or individual you’re looking to get feedback from. If you’re not sure what your roadblocks are, read through this list of some common possibilities and see if any of them resonate:
- You think because you’ve reached this position that a. You are infallible/have all of the answers or b. you’re supposed to look like you’re infallible and have all of the answers
- You think you’re “one of them, approachable.” You believe you can intuit where they’re at, and if they had specific feedback to give you they would (so why ask)
- The unknowns seem overwhelming – Who do I talk to? How much time is this going to take? What questions should I ask? What do I do with the feedback? What if I show up defensive or dismissive? What if it’s not a big deal, can I wait and see if it all just works itself out?
- You’re afraid that if you ask for feedback about something it will open up a floodgate of complaints that aren’t related to the topic
- Your confidence or self-worth feels low or fragile; you’re not able to take in candid feedback objectively nor will you believe positive feedback
- Deep down you believe that even with all of the benefits, it’s not their job to give you feedback or that it really should come from your leader
- You are afraid of what could happen if hard feedback about you or your projects is out in the open – Will it negatively affect your relationship with the person that shared it? Will it reflect poorly on you and jeopardize your ability to effectively lead? Could you lose your job?
- You’ve had a bad experience getting feedback from your team in the past (either your current team or a previous one) and don’t want to repeat that
- You don’t want to bother or burden them, or make them feel uncomfortable; asking for their feedback feels like a favor or an extra responsibility that they may not want
Once you’ve identified what’s holding you back from going out to get feedback, do the work to get past it (you may need to collaborate with someone you trust to help you do that).
If you’re still struggling and uncertain if you’re willing to take the risk to go out and get feedback, explore what might happen in a scenario where you choose to stay silent. How much time and energy are you spending wondering or worrying about how you or your projects are being perceived? What do you notice the people on your team do when you don’t reach out for their feedback in a meaningful, intentional way? What do you see happening down the road if you don’t open up a safe space to talk about it with them?
Ensure that you’re making your decision to go out and get feedback or go quiet from a full understanding of the path you’re choosing. Whatever your choice, pay attention to what was going on in the process. You’ll learn a lot from the situations that felt successful, and from the times that felt like a big, huge failure.
Feedback is super valuable, and can be pretty messy. Take on the challenge to create a safe space for you and your team to engage in it openly and honestly. The more you reach out and practice and refine your feedback skills with your team, the better you’ll all get at it.
À la Carte
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