Management and Leadership Series Posted by Nicola Maxwell

Festive Fatigue Feedback

You shop online, you shop in-store; wherever you shop at this time of year you’re highly likely to be asked to complete a feedback survey with the enticement of winning a prize.  Feedback requests are de-rigueur in the retail world.

In the business world, we’re also at a time of year when a similar feedback frenzy often kicks into gear.  Usually, it’s prompted by the end-of-year appraisal.  Although this is slowly disappearing and being replaced with more regular feedback conversations there is still a clamour for feedback at the year-end.

So, if you are caught up in a frenzy of feedback requests how do you ensure you get, and give, feedback that is both meaningful and helpful?

One way to avoid the annual feedback frenzy altogether is to build up a portfolio of feedback as you go through the year. This is particularly important if you have been working with different people or on different initiatives, as it’s almost impossible to get useful feedback at the year-end from someone you worked with in February!

Get into the habit of asking people for feedback regularly and come the year-end you’ll have done all the hard work, which leaves you to focus on other things while everyone else is feeling somewhat fatigued by the volume of feedback requests!

Here are a few tips, if you’re the person asking for feedback:

  • If you have a choice of who to ask, select people carefully and, as a rule of thumb, don’t ask any more than five people for feedback. You’re aiming for quality, not quantity! Have the courage to ask those people whom you don’t get on with so well. They can often highlight blind spots for us that we might otherwise be unaware of. A colleague who was once told that her questioning style came across as “overly interrogative” has learnt to provide more context before she asks questions and also worked on asking questions in a more conversational style.
  • Tell people in advance that you’d like some feedback from them so they’re warmed up to the idea beforehand and have a chance to consider what they’ll say.
  • Focus your feedback request. Be specific about what you’d like feedback on. It’s not enough to just ask what went well and what you could improve on next time around. All you’re likely to get are bland generalities!Instead, think about your personal impact and how you want to be seen, any development you’ve been doing or anything you’ve been more mindful of.For example, “I’ve been working on chairing the project meetings more effectively so that the group stays focused and people still feel able to contribute their ideas. I’d welcome your feedback on how I’m doing in that respect.”Doing it this way means you’re more likely to get feedback that is far more meaningful and relevant to you.

If you’re asked to give feedback, there are also a few things you can do:

  • Be really specific – some of the most unhelpful feedback people give is way too general.“You did a great job!” “Nice work!” While lovely to hear, this is incredibly unhelpful feedback as the recipient simply has no idea what it was they did that resulted in the great job.A better alternative would be: “I particularly liked the way you were able to handle the concerns expressed by the leadership team in a calm and considered way”.
  • Always explain the impact of someone’s actions or behaviours. This helps them get a sense of why it mattered and means the feedback is more likely to stick.For example, “…this earned you the respect of the team and helped us to move on quickly to the next stage of the project“.
  • Feedback should be viewed as an opportunity to help people develop – many people play it too safe when it comes to giving feedback and only share the positives. When feedback is only given at the year-end and linked to someone’s reward package, this is somewhat understandable. (Yet another good reason to break the link with the end of year appraisal!)Developmental feedback helps people get even better at what they do. It mentions what went well and highlights what the person could do even better. Note the positive phrasing – it makes a huge difference to how your feedback is received.For example, “The report you produced for our quarterly meeting was extremely thorough and incorporated all the required information. That meant we were able to answer questions from the group without hesitation. To enhance the impact of the report and make it even better how could you present some of the data in a more visual format so the audience can digest the information more easily?”
  • Our final tip – don’t overload people with feedback! Stick to 2 or 3 messages you want to give them and leave it at that.

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