I will never forget the first time I received tough feedback. I was managing a government-funded employment centre at the time.
While working on a tight deadline to implement a new computer system, I was surprised when the Director called me to come to her office ASAP.
She told me my peer (Margaret, who I worked with every day) had raised a concern that needed to be addressed immediately. Margaret felt ‘intimidated’ by me and I made her uncomfortable. Instantly I became defensive – why didn’t she talk to me, what did I do, where was this coming from? Me… intimidating?
Margaret said I was impatient and judgmental, pushing her to explain how things were done. She felt I didn’t respect the work she and the team did and that I just wanted to ‘change everything’. It became obvious she didn’t know what I was doing; she was missing the context for why I needed information and how I was using it.
I felt bad that my actions were seen as overbearing but it was a pivotal moment. From then on I took more time to listen and explain before rushing ahead; I brought Margaret along as a partner. In the end, we formed a terrific working relationship and created a great new system!
Looking back, it was that tough feedback that helped me learn about my own direct style and how to flex my approach with others who were indirect.
While I can relate to what it feels like to receive tough feedback, I truly value the awareness you develop because of it. This is why I always recommend people become aware of their own style. You grow so much when you connect with people who are different than you.
Candour and Feedback Makes a Better Workplace
In today’s workplaces we often refrain from saying what needs to be said for a variety of reasons, we:
Feedback, the Breakfast of Champions
When someone cares enough to give honest, constructive feedback in a clear and helpful way it helps the individual grow and become more self-aware – just as I did. Yet according to Harvard Business Review, we actually all want the negative feedback you hate to give!
I’m not talking about the positive nice feedback here; I’m referring to candid and sometimes difficult to hear ‘real stuff’, often shielded from more senior leaders as you rise in an organization.
Cultivating a positive environment where it is safe to give and receive feedback openly begins with you, the leader. You set the tone by modelling trust and openness in every interaction, encouraging others to share their differing views.
Seek and Ye Shall Find
In each workshop I’ve done about feedback or candour it’s been surprising how few leaders ever received tough or candid feedback over their career! So it is no wonder they aren’t comfortable giving tough feedback to their team!
So how do you start to develop an environment for tougher feedback? You actually begin by asking!
How to Get to The Tough Stuff
Given the reluctance listed above, you may find it difficult to get open, candid feedback. Here are 5 things you can do to get people to open up:
It takes a little focus but based on my experience, candour is your best bet to creating the most highly engaged, super-charged high-performance teams!
Drop me a note when you’re looking for help to gather, receive or act on feedback! I conduct sessions with teams to uncover what issues are causing the most frustrations as well as coach leaders who want to stretch and improve.
photo by CC0 @cerpow on Unsplash
Elaine Adamson is a leadership consultant with Dots Leadership Solutions Inc. A natural dot connector. Passionate about coaching team effectiveness and leadership development she shares over 25+ years of real-life tips and tricks that really work!
Elaine believes you can discover and leverage strengths to forge a strong team dynamic despite business challenges or organizational change.