Feedback within the realm of leadership is a challenging topic. There are so many subjective dynamics to delivering it well, integrating it across our teams, and using it to improve our leadership and performance. Yet, despite its complexities, feedback is critical for our leader growth and team performance. Through this Feedback Primer, I aimed to provide everything I have learned and experienced on feedback in a commonsense way to help you and your people. Over this Primer, we have looked at:
- Part 1: An introduction to what feedback is and why it is important, both for our own growth and for the development of our team.
- Part 2: A detailed analysis on the art and science of how to deliver and receive feedback well, being mindful in sharing our “truth in love” with others.
- Part 3: How and why leaders need to own, seek out, and create feedback loops for themselves, not merely waiting for others or formal organizational systems to do it for them.
- Part 4: How to innovate feedback loops within your team by addressing the five dynamics of a feedback loop.
- Part 5: We introduced three example feedback loops that leaders can adapt and introduce into their teams as ways to start developing a team deliberately founded on feedback to improve team performance.
A Call to Action: 3 Concluding Challenges
As we wrap up this Feedback Primer, I wish to offer you three final challenges – three small things that you can start doing right now to begin integrating routine, relevant, and high-quality feedback systems not only within your own development, but in your team’s development as well.
Challenge 1: Keep learning more. There are a few topics that I emphasize within my own continued leader development, and feedback is one towards the top of my list. Any time I see this topic in an article or podcast title, or find a book on the subject, I immediately dig into it. I am always trying to learn more about feedback and how to give/receive it better. While I do not think you need to make it such a priority in your own development, I do challenge you to commit some sustained effort toward learning more about this topic over time; this Feedback Primer alone is not sufficient. Some helpful initial resources that I recommend include:
- Books: There are a lot of great books available that directly and indirectly impact feedback. Initial recommendations include Radical Candor, by Kim Scott; Insight, by Tasha Eurich; The Fearless Organization, by Amy Edmondson; and Daring Greatly, by Brené
- Podcasts: Of the leadership podcasts that I subscribe to (found on my resources page), many tackle the topic of feedback in certain episodes. One of my favorite podcasts, Coaching for Leaders, addresses it routinely. You can check out Coaching for Leaders episodes 143 and 442 as great starters.
- Articles: Personally, I value many Harvard Business Review articles that address feedback (find examples HERE, HERE, and HERE). But you can find quality content on feedback from many online resources through simple online searches or ones shared through social media.
Challenge 2: Build psychological safety through leader presence. In part 2, we briefly discussed the importance of psychological safety within the team as a necessary precursor to integrating feedback into our teams. I’ve also written more on psychological safety here. But leaders must demonstrate a level of presence to ultimately build that safety. One of my favorite leader presence behaviors is “Leadership by Wandering Around” (LBWA). At its most basic form, LBWA means spending time with your people with no strict plan or agenda beyond simply interacting with them. I encourage you to learn more about LBWA here.
So, I challenge leaders to begin practicing LBWA. Start small, with maybe 30-minutes once or twice a week. In time, with some practice and after establishing a foundation of safety with your people through it, you can begin to integrate simple, low-threat questions into your conversations that solicit feedback. You can consider questions like:
- “What’s on your mind?” (a personal favorite to initiate a conversation; it puts the ball in their court).
- Ask them about a recent training event and how it landed with them. Ask what resonated the most or could be most improved.
- Or ask about their broad perceptions on the team’s (or even leadership’s) performance recently. Ask about what is going well within the team, what is not, and what is one thing they would change if they could and why.
Challenge 3: Show gratitude. Expressing gratitude can be an outstanding way to provide positive feedback to others. And positive feedback is often a necessary gateway to get approval to provide constructive feedback to them. As Adrian Gostick and Chester Elton state in their book, Leading with Gratitude, “what…workers are really looking for is not praise for praise’s sake, but guidance. Clear direction and feedback. …gratitude provides clarity about whether the work they are doing is correct, valued by the boss or others, and making a significant contribution to the business.”
They go on to say, “When it’s done well, leaders become closer to their people and pay attention to what their employees are contributing, all of which opens the door for people to offer up concerns about problems they’re seeing ideas they’ve come up with, valuable information from customers and clients, and even mistakes they’ve made or problems they’re running into with their work.”
Leaders expressing gratitude can be a mechanism for providing important positive feedback and for improving psychological safety. While Leading with Gratitude offers up a robust proposal on how leaders can express gratitude more routinely and deliberately, a few personal behaviors I recommend include:
- Simply just saying “thank you” more often, even for people completing basic tasks required from their job.
- Write a hand-written note, maybe starting with just one a week, expressing gratitude to someone for something special. Ensure your gratitude is specific, sharing a specific action the person took and the direct impact they had on others because of it.
- Try and recognize someone on the team publicly in an informal way for something they accomplished or did for the team. It can be in a team meeting or in a team-wide email. Recognizing someone in this way makes that person feel special and appreciated, but also develops the culture across the team. Ensure we spread the gratitude wealth and don’t subconsciously ignore those in lower-density support roles that don’t directly impact the team’s mission; they are very deserving of gratitude as well.
I feel it is appropriate to end this Primer the same way we started it – by reminding us that it all comes back to feedback, and that feedback is nothing more than “truth shared in love.” This applies to our personal growth as leaders and to our team’s collective performance. Feedback is the most simple and effective way to make ourselves and one another better. It closes our self-awareness gap, provides accountability and challenge to our teammates, and directly improves individual and collective performance.
I hope this Primer equipped you with some basic knowledge on feedback and how to best leverage it to develop ourselves and others. Now, equipped with this new knowledge, I hope that we are inspired to begin practicing it more deliberately in our leadership and in our team. Ultimately, I’m excited to see robust, high-quality feedback loops integrated into the routine business of how our team works day-to-day.
Best of luck to you and your teams. Lead and develop well, friends.
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