I often hear from friends and colleagues of pointless meetings, uninspiring leaders and frustrating relationships (something I’ve blogged about before). I believe they tell me about these things because they know of my love of governance and especially Roberts Rules of Order in running an effective meeting. Plus public speaking is a passion and now my business.
What is clear is that those grumbling know something is not right. They also have a good idea what would make whatever is wrong better. But when I ask “have you given them feedback?” or “have you offered to fix it?”, the answer is generally “no”.
Giving feedback to your superiors (or any colleague or peer) is hard. I’m not suggesting you walk up to them and say “That was rubbish!”. There are ways to communicate in a non-offensive way.
Take for example, running a meeting. My experience suggests not that many people enjoy running meetings (there’s not that many governance geeks like me out there who really do love it). If you offered to run one meeting, to give a colleague a break or cover for them whilst they’re away, would they object?
As for speaking – try starting with what was good and use that to provide suggestions for improvement: “I found what you were sharing helpful. I feel you could have even more impact if you…”
Would your boss really turn down an initiative: “I’ve got an idea for a new way to do something, which may solve x problem – could we use half an hour to try it?” or “I attended some training on more effective presentations and I’d like to try it out”. Why would they say no to something that comes from a positive intention to make things better and improve?
If you’re the one running a meeting/team/project/company, how can you ensure you invite helpful feedback? I’ve found one of the key qualities of leadership is acknowledging you don’t know everything and utilising other people’s skills and insights. Also vital is recognising that if your team members are doing well, progressing and looking good, then you’re doing well and also looking good. Empowering your colleagues to speak up and suggest ways to improve could make all the difference to your workplace.
I am fully aware that at the start of my career, there is no way I would have had the confidence, wherewithal or guts to speak up and say “this could be better/let’s do this differently”. But at the start of my career I hadn’t had that experience of running an effective meeting or speaking in front of a room full of people. I was lucky to work for people who made the effort to get to know me, recognised my skills and asked me to help make things better. I likewise always encouraged my own team to share ways that we could do things differently – listening to other perspectives is how we learn.
If you’re working for good leaders, why wouldn’t they embrace this kind of improvement? We all want to work somewhere inspiring, where we can do our jobs to the best of our abilities. If you can see a way to make something better, why wouldn’t you share it? If something is frustrating you enough to tell someone else about it, think of the difference you could make by speaking up at work.