Many articles and blogs on feedback focus on the manager’s role of giving feedback. There are also multiple articles on how to receive feedback. This literature is helpful and does provide tips for navigating critique feedback. It is unfortunately often a weakness-based approach. What if we flipped this mindset on its end and created cultures where employees are proactive and ask for feedback; a strengths-based approach? How do we create this culture of proactive ongoing strengths-based feedback?
A culture of proactive feedback is a shift away from Give (the manager) and Receive (the employee) mindset. Proactive feedback is a strengths-based approach to seeing endless opportunities to refine, polish, and leverage our collective strengths. It is, as DeAnna Murphy of People Acuity writes, an opportunity for “confident vulnerability”. She defines confident vulnterability as “to courageously embrace the strengths, weaknesses, and needs of self and others without judgment.”
To receive feedback requires good listening skills, affirming body language, curiosity rather than defensiveness, and asking clarifying questions. If these skills are applied, there can be a conversation which builds understanding and creates space for reflection. All feedback sessions should also end with action steps and follow up meetings to check in on progress.
Imagine now building on these foundations with a strengths-based approach. Consider these three scenarios:
- You have been assigned a new project. The project requires you to develop several new skills. You recognize things are not going as well as you’d like. You approach your manager and say…”I’m excited about this project and I’ve been using my strengths to navigate through a few challenges. I’m wondering if you and I can schedule a time to check in on how I’m doing, my approach, and how I might adjust my strengths to meet the goals?”
- Your team has added a new person whom you’ve never work with before. The manger and the two of you are charged with preparing a report for several stakeholders. Your perspectives on how to best approach this report are very different and are resulting in judging and defensive behaviors. You approach your colleague and manager and say…”This feels like an opportunity for us to get to understand each other strengths better and find the best possible way forward. I’m wondering if we can meet to learn about each others strengths. I think this will help us leverage our talents more strategically and prevent getting so stuck.”
- “I’m really struggling with the misuse of one my strengths. I’d like some coaching on how I can use this strength more effectively to work on my current project. “
This is confident vulnerability. It is a shift towards proactive dialogue and feedback. It allows us to get out ahead of challenges. Managers and employees that adopt confident vulnerability c0-create a proactive culture of strengths-based feedback together.
Fortunately, the Millennial demographic is driving changes in feedback in organizations. They want more feedback. Yet, only 19% of millennials say they receive routine feedback. An even smaller percentage of millennials (17%) say the feedback they do receive is meaningful. And, the breakdown in communication doesn’t rest solely on managers’ shoulders. Gallup also discovered that just 15% of millennials strongly agree that they routinely ask for feedback. Millennials want feedback at work, but they don’t necessarily ask for it.
It’s time we all step back and think about how do we ask for feedback in our organizations.
What’s one step you can do to ask for feedback proactively? How can you create this culture shift in your organization?