One of our communication courses includes a section on obtaining feedback from your staff, and this is an area that many managers have concerns with. They feel that their staff hide their real feelings and are afraid to offer any form of feedback in case they say the wrong things or invite trouble because of disagreeing with ideas that have been put forward by you, the boss.
So how can you encourage feedback, so your people gladly give it and communication lines are kept open? How do you make sure you obtain honest and reliable feedback? Here are some tips:
First, be proactive in asking for feedback: This is necessary so you can find out if the messages you are giving have been received in the way you intended. If you can’t get effective feedback, you will never know if the messages have been received accurately.
Then, don’t be defensive: Challenging any validity of the feedback, reasoning out your actions, or arguing with the individual will immediately kill the feedback opportunities you might have wanted in the past and will get in the future.
Next, check your understanding by summarising what you’ve heard: Saying something like “Let me be clear I’ve understood you correctly”, or “From what you’ve said, am I right in thinking…”. These statements will clarify any misunderstandings you might have picked up.
Then, check any underlying assumptions: Ask clarifying questions directly, or identify the receiver’s assumptions by determining the meaning you originally intended to give and how it may have been interpreted by the individual.
Remember to check the other person’s non-verbal messages: Their body language, facial expressions, eye contact and posture may well give a bigger message than what they specifically say. So be aware of what signals the person may be giving off non-verbally. Watch for any mismatches in what is being said and the non-verbal gestures they display.
Finally, ask questions to confirm your understanding of the feedback: This is for clarification, not judgement. Determine which issues need further discussion, and get the real viewpoint from the other person.
Always remember the reason why you want the feedback in the first place. Be aware that your manner and attitude may affect the way the person approaches you in the future, so be open and willing to listen. Encourage feedback on all occasions and you will get specific ideas from others who may have a different perspective from you.