Several weeks ago I bought one of those new cars that have a ‘blind spot’ feature. Whenever there’s another vehicle in my blind spot, a little light turns on. And if I am about to change lanes and there’s a car in my blind spot, a little beep alerts me that I might be in danger of acting without proper caution.
Unfortunately, there is no parallel light that assists us in knowing when our personal behaviour is counterproductive without us even knowing about it. Having blind spots is human, but inevitably we are bound to create significant damage to ourselves and others.
So, if you want to step up and be the kind of person you really strive to be, you’ll need to clean up some of the mess in your blind spot. If you don’t, you might find yourself in all kinds of trouble. Seeking feedback from others is one of the best methods for obtaining quality data that will help you change. It may not be exactly what you want to hear, but like any other yucky medicine, it’s gonna do you a lot of good.
Here’s a list of tips I comprised for my upcoming book Trust Your Canary! Every Leader’s Guide to Taming Workplace Incivility – use them to help you collect quality feedback:
Selecting the right people
- Choose a cross-sectional representation of people to provide the feedback: colleagues, managers, people who report to you.
- Select people who are good observers of behaviour – they will give you detailed data.
- Don’t go only to those who like and appreciate you. Those who are not necessarily your fans might be great sources of rich information.
- Decide whether to let the person know in advance that you will be seeking feedback or whether it is better to do it on a more spontaneous basis.
- Let them know why you are asking for feedback – the larger context.
- Clarify that you are open to hearing anything they have to say without becoming defensive.
- Ask for the feedback to be as specific as possible.
- Request their observations on your behaviour as well as on the impact it has (or might have) on others.
When receiving the feedback
- Monitor your reactions – do not get defensive (easier said than done, I know).
- Maintain a relaxed body posture.
- Ask clarifying questions to receive specific data (for example, “what specifically do you see or hear that leads you to say that I come across as dismissive?”).
- Encourage additional feedback by using phrases such as ‘what else have you seen?”, or “what do you think others might be seeing that I do not see?”.
- Thank them for their input and candour and invite them to let you know of anything else they may think of after the conversation.
After the fact
- Thank the person again in person, via email, phone or a written note, letting them know what specifically was helpful and what action you might take based on their feedback.
- Now, make the necessary changes!
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