Monday, January 18, 2010

Why You Need Feedback from Others

We all have blind spots about our behavior. That's a fact, even though it can be painful to admit. Occasionally we figure out on our own that something we're doing has a negative impact on others, but usually we need another person to point it out. Feedback from others helps us see what it's really like to be on the receiving end of our words and actions.

As the publisher of survey software that collects and reports performance feedback, I've been privileged to hear about many life-changing stories over the years. Here's one of my favorites.

"Jeff" owns a hotel in one of the New England states. Two years ago he was distressed about problems with his staff. There was a lot of absenteeism, and morale seemed quite low. He knew he wasn't getting the best from the managers and employees, but he didn't know why. He asked a consultant who uses our 20/20 Insight software to set up an employee opinion survey. Jeff thought people would give honest input if they knew their responses would be anonymous and confidential. And he was right.

The results surprised him. It was a huge "wake-up" call that dramatically changed the way he viewed his team and ran his business.

One of Jeff's core values is treating people with respect. But the survey showed that people disliked coming to work because of the oppressive, controlling environment he'd created. Jeff was shocked to learn there was a huge gap between the culture he wanted and the one he'd actually created.

Before doing this survey, he had NO idea that people felt this way!

The good news is that Jeff used that information to think about what the staff really wanted from him. He asked the consultant to be his coach and help him make changes in his management style. Six months later, this consultant walked into the hotel and immediately sensed a difference in the attitudes of the people she encountered. Individuals came up to her and said that they loved coming to work now because the atmosphere at the hotel was totally different. Jeff was listening more and commanding less.

When she walked into Jeff's office, he came around from his desk and gave her a hug. He was beaming. He thanked her for the role she and the survey results had played in changing his life. Not only had Jeff modified his behavior at work and improved his relationship with everyone there, his changes also had a profound impact on his relationship with his family.

I spoke to this consultant recently, and she shared that since the original survey two years ago, Jeff has continued to make improvements. He conducts surveys on a regular basis now to make sure he's on track with his behavior.

I admire Jeff for several reasons.

#1. He had the courage to ask for feedback in the first place. Many of us would prefer not to know or we're afraid of what we might hear so we avoid asking.

#2. He was brutally honest with himself and took responsibility for his own actions. He didn't make excuses or try to justify his behavior.

#3. He made a commitment to change and then followed through. Sometimes we recognize that we need to change, but we never get around to doing anything about it.

#4. He asked for assistance while making the changes. He realized that a coach could reduce his learning curve and provide the support he needed.

You don't have to use a formal survey process to get feedback from the people who are important to you - your customers, co-workers, family and friends. This week, commit to asking at least three people this one question: "What one thing could I do better that would make the biggest difference in our relationship?"

If people sense that you genuinely want to know and will not react defensively, I guarantee you'll get insights that can help you strengthen all of your relationships.

Please leave a comment and share what you've learned when you've asked someone else to give you feedback.


  1. So spot on, Meredith! Recently wrote an article which included if you haven't 1. asked for feedback from others, 2. received it voluntarily or 3. reflected on your own behaviour in last 3 weeks, do 1 and 2 immediately.

    Thank you for raising the topic so cogently.

  2. Thanks for that great 3-step process, Sharon. Excellent suggestion. I really appreciate your taking time to comment and give me positive feedback.

  3. Meredith, your message in this post is powerful and inspiring! Perfect!

    Your question: Share what you've learned when you've asked someone else to give you feedback.

    Here's what I have learned:

    Before I ask for or get feedback, I plan carefully. I ask myself:
    - Am I able to openly receive *any* feedback?
    - What will I do to get myself in the right frame of mind?
    - What will I say when I get positive feedback?
    - What will I say when I get feedback I was not expecting?
    - What actions will I take to show that I appreciate the feedback and will take action?

    Doing this planning activity gets me in the right frame of mind and conveys a powerful message.

    I have been told that I have accepted feedback gracefully, professionally, and honestly. After years of practice and continual self-assessment, I can honestly say that the results are worth it!

    Increased trust/respect are key outcomes of asking for (and accepting) feedback. Do this and you too can build even stronger relationships in all aspects of your life, just like Jeff!


  4. Sonia, Thank you for the fantastic enrichment to this post! You're right, being ready to receive the feedback is KEY. And your questions pre-feedback are excellent. You've made a very valuable contribution.

  5. I read this article, this article very informative and interesting..I refer your blog to many of my friends as well.
    Thanks for sharing knowledge..
    Employee Satisfaction Survey Questions


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