Dad always taught me, never ask a question you don't want an honest answer to…so the first thing I would say, if you don't want honest feedback then don't ask your employee, your customer or anybody!
I say that hoping that people realise that none of us really enjoy feedback that is not 100% fantastic, it is always uncomfortable and in a sense it should be…because it is testing your beliefs.
So how do you ensure that feedback is taken in a positive way, well here are 5 steps that have helped me over the years
- Prepare for feedback. Before you ask, make sure you know and understand that it may feel painful. Ensure you are ready to listen, if you are not ready to listen then you are not ready to ask!
- Accept. At this point is not about who is right and who is wrong – the truth is normally in between anyway! – it is about listening to what EXACTLY they are saying. If you are already planning your defence you are not listening, you are hearing. Accept this is their viewpoint.
- Take time to understand. This again is not about accepting that everything they say is right, it is about finding out why they think that way….the only way you can do this is to ask questions about their views, asking for examples, specifics.
- Agree a plan. After both sides have truly expressed and listen to each others views then you can find that middle ground. Find a suitable course of action that shows that you have understood their point of view. It might be you finding out more from others, gathering feedback from other sources, issuing an apology, agreeing how you work together in the future.
- Be Positive. Whatever has been said, respect that the other person has both the right to feel the way they do and has had the bravery to give you the feedback. You asked – you can only thank them for answering the question! So be positive about both these points. This is not saying you are agreeing, this is saying you respect their honesty and their openness.
At the end of the day, it is up to you to go away in private and find the truth – however painful – and work on ways to correct the feedback. Sometimes we also forget to do MORE of the positive comments – remember positive are not passive pieces of praise …they are an invitation to use more.