Don’t shoot the messenger! How to provide upward feedback.

I’m a massive history buff and have recently been engrossed with the podcast ‘Revolutions’ [iTunes / Spotify], which delves into the reasons certain Revolutions happened and how they played out.

What has this got to do with ‘upward feedback’ I hear you ask? Well, in two of the most famous Revolutions – the French and the Russian – we can point to a Leadership (the King and the Tsar in these cases) that existed in almost complete isolation to the countries they were governing and were either not asking for or not receiving feedback from people who knew what was going on.

Now I’m not suggesting that senior management and the leadership groups of organisations will suffer the same fate as Nicky and Louis – but you get my point. Feedback is critical to the success of organisations and that feedback needs to go both ways.

Providing feedback to Managers, Leadership teams and C-Suite operators can however be quite a daunting task, especially if that feedback isn’t the positive kind. There could be concerns about ‘shooting the messenger’, scapegoating and the apportioning of blame.

When should you give feedback?

If you are lucky enough to work within an organisation which has an open and reflective culture then this task becomes a lot easier – but can still be anxiety inducing as no-one really likes delivering bad news.

If you don’t, then my first bit of advice is to consider whether you want to work in a culture in which feedback is not sought after or considered. You may well be in the wrong place!

But when it comes to actually delivering feedback there are a few things to consider.

My four considerations.

Firstly, be specific. Use evidence, examples and data where necessary. This approach allows you to have a degree impartiality where you are communicating specific information. Being vague with feedback opens the prospect of interpretation where heightened emotions can easily come into play in a negative way.

Secondly, don’t just focus on the negatives. Where things have gone well, make sure these are also acknowledged.

Thirdly, focus on one piece of feedback at a time so that a particular issue can be addressed and actions agreed swiftly, without that issue being side-tracked or pushed down the agenda. Problems are best confronted and dealt with quickly in most cases.

And fourthly, be ‘solutions driven’. If a problem or issue has been identified within the feedback then before you deliver it think about a possible solution or solutions to that problem. You are now adding value to the feedback process.

Why is feedback important?

Having honest and transparent feedback is vital to any organisation. Without it the ability of an organisation to set a direction, design a strategy, to grow commercially and retain staff is severely affected.

Taking into account these four points when giving that feedback will help contribute to your organisations success. And will prevent anyone from losing their head!


Alex Allen iMultiply

Written by Alex Allen.

Click here to email Alex, or click here to meet the rest of the team.

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