A recent HBR article proclaimed, “Business publications are filled with articles about feedback: how important it is for leaders, how leaders can both give and receive it, what happens when leaders don’t get it, and even what to do if someone is not open to feedback they have been given. The focus tends to be on the transfer of the data.”
The author, executive coach Jennifer Porter, went on to describe a typical performance feedback process that is likely extremely familiar to any leader, culminating in what executives typically do once they receive this information—and what they could be doing better. According to the piece, “Even when leaders make an effort to collect robust feedback, they only access about 25 percent of its potential value. This is because the process often stops too soon.”
In order to derive the most from feedback and truly improve leadership abilities and overall effectiveness, Porter recommended these six key steps:
- Reflect upon the feedback: All too often, people will read feedback reports and immediately dismiss what they view as inaccurate, biased or unjustified. While that certainly is the case some of the time, Porter encourages leaders to think about all of the feedback and ask some tough questions. For example, what assumptions are you making that drive your behaviors—and are they accurate? What impact are you having on others, and how does that compare to the impact you want to have?
- Make a development plan: A deeper understanding of feedback enables leaders to identify what they want to do more and less of, and this is critical information that should be part of a development plan. According to Porter, this exercise forces people to “synthesize and prioritize what data is most important to focus on, covert it into learning, and determine the actions you need to take.”
- Discuss the plan with those that provided feedback: Porter acknowledges that people will naturally feel vulnerable and uncomfortable when openly discussing their feedback with those who gave it. But it’s an important step in determining what behaviors need to change and also demonstrates a desire to drive change that colleagues are likely to find inspiring.
- Revise your development plan: This is a critical step, as there is no point meeting with people to discuss feedback if you have no plans to actually incorporate what they have to say.
- Take action: After going through all the steps outlined above, it’s important that you actually do what you said you’d do. Porter writes, “For example, if you want to be better at developing your people, you might plan to hold one-on-one meetings more regularly to better understand their growth priorities and agree on what you can do to support them.”
- Evaluate progress and repeat the process: Make sure to follow the guidance in your development plan about assessing progress, reflect on this data, and then begin the process again to continue to drive improvements.
Of course, it might not always be practical or possible to follow all of Porter’s recommendations. But at the very least, the next time you receive feedback, take time to truly digest it and consider how you could change your behavior to address some of the points raised.
For more on maximizing business feedback, head over to HBR to read Porter’s article.