6 Steps Leaders Can Take To Get The Most Out of Feedback

By Jennifer Porter
January 13, 2020

Business publications are filled with articles about feedback: how important it is for leaders, what happens when leaders don’t get it and what to do if someone is not open to feedback.

Even when leaders make efforts to collect robust feedback from their managers or human resources, they often only access a portion of its potential value. This is because the process often stops too soon. The leader will read a report assessing his strength and weakness, accept some of the information and reject some data. At this point, the process is considered complete. But in doing so, leaders lose out on the opportunity to use the feedback to create meaningful change.

To achieve all the benefits of their evaluation, leaders can take a few additional steps:

  1. REFLECT UPON AND TALK THROUGH THE DATA WITH A TRUSTED PARTNER: Take time to think about these questions:
  • What exactly did the feedback report tell you?
  • How open are you to accepting the data?
  • What assumptions are you making that drive your behaviors?
  • Are they accurate?

Then, find someone who is trustworthy, curious and a good listener to talk through the data with. You want to feel psychologically safe enough to be open in this discussion. Whoever you choose to confide in, remember that their job is to listen carefully and help you come to your own conclusions.

  1. DRAFT A DEVELOPMENT PLAN: After you fully understand the feedback and have identified what you want to do more and less of, draft a development plan. Summarize the most important feedback you heard, include questions you have about the data, articulate the steps you will take and identify the help you will need.
  2. DISCUSS THE FEEDBACK AND YOUR DEVELOPMENT PLAN WITH THE FEEDBACK PROVIDERS: In talking to your feedback providers, you will be modeling transparency, humility and openness, and receive concrete examplesof the behaviors you need to change. Most importantly, you will strengthen your relationships with your colleagues. Set up a meeting to thank your feedback providers, summarize what you heard in the feedback, ask any clarifying questions, share the steps you plan to take to improve and ask for any help that you need.
  3. REVISE YOUR DEVELOPMENT PLAN: Your meeting will likely yield deeper insights and specific examples of the behaviors you need to work on. With this new data in hand, revise your development plan and specify how you will measure your progress. Send your revised plan to your feedback providers so they know what to expect.
  4. TAKE ACTION: Learning from feedback and follow-up meetings creates self-awareness, which is great, but unless you take the stepsoutlined in your development plan, you will not see improvement.
  5. EVALUATE PROGRESS AND REPEAT THE PROCESS. Follow the guidance in your revised development plan around when and how you’ll assess progress. What has improved? What hasn’t? With this data collected, you can again reflect and explore it with a trusted partner, revise your development plan and take further action.

If all of this seems like a lot of work, that’s because it is. But it will be much more valuable to leaders than a simple report. Great leaders don’t just get feedback, they work to understand it and create meaningful change.

Copyright 2019 Harvard Business School Publishing Corp. Distributed by The New York Times Syndicate.

Topics: Leadership Management

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