Requesting Honest and Constructive Feedback

As manager or leader you might be required to ask feedback on the performance of either yourself or one of your team members. Explaining the background of your request for feedback and listening well can create an environment conducive to sincere, specific and constructive feedback.

The following pointers can help to create such an environment:

  • Schedule a convenient time and place for this conversation as this is conducive to open and honest feedback.

  • Explain what or who you want feedback on, why you want the feedback and what you will be doing with it.

  • An example: “Anne, I am requesting feedback on one of my team members, Peter. I do a performance review every 6 months on each on my team members, which I will discuss with the team member, and will use it to put a development plan together. As you work closely with Peter on a daily basis, I would value your input on his performance.”

  • In some organisations feedback is given anonymously. In others, the feedback, and its source, is made known to all involved. If the feedback is confidential, reassure the person giving feedback that you will respect this confidentiality.

  • As it can be difficult for the person providing the feedback to know where to start, help by asking questions. For example: “What are the three things you think Peter does well? What are the three things you think Peter can improve on? What are the three things you think Peter can do differently?”

  • Listen to the feedback with your full attention; look at the person talking and do not interrupt the flow of the conversation.

  • If you need additional information or if you want to clarify a point, wait for the person to finish and then proceed by asking something like: “Just for my understanding, can you tell me more about xyz?”

  • Make notes of the key points raised and the examples given as this will assist you to reflect on it later and pass it on accurately.

  • Do not try to defend any of the points raised or try to provide solutions or answers. Instead, ask the person providing the feedback whether he or she has any suggestions on how to address the issue raised.

  • A good way to demonstrate to the person providing the feedback that you have understood the feedback is to play back your understanding of the issue in the same words you will be using when passing on the feedback. For example: “Let me play back to you what I will say about the points your have raised… Have I reflected this accurately?”

  • Always acknowledge the courage it takes for people to give honest feedback and thank them for their time and effort.

  • Feedback can be used as a highly effective tool in the personal development of both individuals and teams. I trust these pointers will help to encourage honest feedback.