I’ve often said that ‘feedback not asked for is rarely taken well’ and it is not only accurate, but alarmingly true on the part of the boss. If a boss doesn’t know how he or she is perceived by the people they manage every day, performance suffers. Unlike Ed Koch, Mayor of New York City from 1978-1989 whose frequent question “How Am I Doing?” became the title of his bestselling book, most boss’s don’t ask for feedback with great regularity.
The ability to give feedback well depends on skill and the ability to both give and receive feedback effectively and it often rests on the trust that exists between the two people involved. If there is openness between you and your boss and trust exists, the intentions of the person giving the feedback are less suspect and the information can be easier to hear.
In a perfect world, the boss asks for feedback. In the real world, the invitation may never come. In training rooms around the region, I may want to focus on Managers giving feedback to Employees, but many Managers want help figuring out the best way to give feedback to the boss.
It can be so tempting to dream about all the things you want to say to the boss: what they are doing wrong, what they do that irks you, and how they can be better at the job of managing YOU! Keep in mind that they are not you and telling them what you would do if you were them is not providing feedback. Focus on how you see things and the impact it has on you, the team, the customer, or the organization.
Remember that you only see things from your own unique perspective. You don’t have all the information the boss has so you may not have a full understanding of all the constraints and pressures that are causing the actions you see. Sharing how you see things can help the boss have an idea about how his or her behaviors are seen and experienced by others. It’s information that can be used to improve their performance. If they take the feedback and act on it.
Some keys to giving feedback well: it is honest and data driven. Specifics help, generalizations and labels don’t. Feedback is given to help, not do damage.
And what if you are the recipient of feedback –– the uninvited kind?
Feedback is a lot like a sweater someone gives you as a gift. Try it on. Don’t assume that it’s not for you. Fashion changes with the season. Spend some time looking at yourself from a lot of different angles in the mirror. Try the sweater on with other things you already own. You might be surprised by what you see.
If it fits and looks right on you – keep it.
If it doesn’t fit and looks wrong on you – forget about it.
But feedback is a gift of information. No matter what you do, always say “Thank You.”