For many years I have been enchanted by the reactions my clients have when receiving employee survey or 360 Degree Leadership Survey or Interview results. And what really impresses me is that, once aware of the small things they do that make a big difference in terms of how they are perceived and how those perceptions affect business results, they take a very mature, focused and intense approach to fixing what does not work and building on what does.
Almost every feedback discussion focuses on that catch-all phrase: communication style. This is such an unexplored and undefined area that it is no wonder that executives and leaders are often blindsided when they learn how they are misunderstood, how much time is wasted in chatter, confusion and complaints. Once they pay attention to the impact of how and what they say, and then become as strategic in communicating to staff and colleagues as they are to customers, amazing things happen. Formally frustrated, resistant or confused folks are engaged, aligned and ready to perform. It all starts with understanding your most important audience: your people.
The best way to begin is for you to get some critical information that underlies the feedback you have received. You can use the data or themes of your recent evaluations as a basis for one-on-one conversations as follows:
- Schedule individual meetings in a neutral and private place.
- Clarify that the purpose of the meeting is for you to better understand more specifically what is going well and what can improve based on the feedback you have received.
- Make sure the individual with whom you are meeting understands that this meeting is intended to benefit the whole organization and you are speaking with a number of people.
- Ask open ended questions, focusing on “what” and “how” rather than “why” and “who”.
- Relax and listen. If you disagree, stay open and focused on what you are being told…even if it makes you uncomfortable or defensive. Paraphrase and confirm and expand what you hear…seek to understand not argue.
- Ask for examples to clarify broad generalizations. “Tell me more” can expand the conversation.
- Express your appreciation and indicate that there will be follow up.
- Then, create and execute an action plan. Verify it with those with whom you meet to make sure you are on track and enlist their support.
- Plan to follow up at three month intervals to assure continued attention to the plan and to enlist additional information that will enhance your progress and instill trust in your attention to development.