How to improve your people management skills by using feedback

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May 17th, 2012

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The CIPD’s recent Employee Outlook Survey reported recently that investing in people management capabilities would make a significant contribution to productivity and growth.  The survey found that many managers fail to realise “how bad they are at managing people” with eight out of 10 managers reporting their staff are ‘satisfied’ or very satisfied with them as a leader, but just 58% of employees agreeing with them.

We believe that key to being effective in your role rests on knowing who you are – your values, beliefs as well as your strengths, weaknesses, motivations, achievements – and the effect you have on others.

So if you’re a line manager looking at your team and wondering what they really think of you – why not ask them for feedback?

Remember that feedback is simply information about your impact on others.  It is neither positive nor negative, although often feedback is associated with negative so it is natural to avoid seeking feedback if we are scared about what people might say.  However, the information that your team may have will be valuable so be courageous and ask them!  To help, there are some simple guidelines in asking for feedback:

  • Ask a range of people – those who know you well and those who know you less well; people you consider will be ‘fans’ and others who will act as ‘critical friend’.
  • Start by asking for feedback about the things you do that people appreciate, value, think you do well and want to see you keep doing or do more of. And only then ask for things that people find you do less well, are less helpful, or want you to do differently.
  • Try not to respond defensively to what you hear, or rush in to justify something. Listen with a sense of curiosity and remember that it can also be difficult to give feedback as well as receive it.
  • If necessary, ask for more clarification. ‘Can you give me an example of the sort of behaviour you   mention?’ or ‘Have there been other times when you feel I have behaved that way to you?’ Stay curious and open.
  • Accept praise graciously! Often we trivialise or deny good things that are said about us. Recognise when praise is given and acknowledge it – ‘thank you, I also think I did that well‘.
  • Choose your moment wisely.  Pouncing on someone at the coffee machine will not elicit a great response so choose a more structured environment and introduce the idea of feedback ‘I’d like to start getting feedback how I’m doing as a manager, and would value your help’.
  • Be patient.  Giving feedback to the boss can be daunting and there may be a fear of reprisals for saying the wrong thing.  Start gradually and establish the trust – how long this take will be depend on each of your team.

Remember you have choices in receiving feedback. You can accept what is said (sometimes it will chime with what you already know – or suspect – about yourself); you could dismiss what is said as not true (and run the risk of not learning from the messages); you can check some things out (by asking for more detail, or asking someone else whether they have seen the same thing in you); or you can file it away for further reflection.

Whatever you do, you now have some data about yourself that you didn’t have before.  Try it and see what happens!