5 for 5 – 4 (Simple) Questions to Ask When Getting Key Work Partner Feedback

7 Sep

Photo Mar 27, 7 26 01 PM

Good morning everyone.

As we mentioned in last week’s 5 for 5 blog, feedback is not only universally tough to give, but it is equally tough to receive (h/t: Shiela Heen). However, feedback is quite possibly the most meaningful of all of your development experiences year after year. One of the processes that I have come to see as invaluable is gathering key work partner feedback for myself and for my staff.

And while there are great mechanisms, such as formal 360 degree assessments, these can be awfully time consuming, and if you are contracting a third party to conduct the feedback, the price tag can also be steep as well. However, price and time should not prevent everyone on your team from seeking feedback from key work partners. Often feedback from these people can often help to validate feedback from managers (or refute), as well as reveal blind spots, that perhaps haven’t been considered.

Personally, I believe it is the obligation of leaders to help facilitate key work partner feedback on behalf of your team. Ideally, the work partners should send feedback directly to the manager and that input should be treated as confidential with the goal of giving the reviewers freedom to give candid input without concern of negative implications.

One of the challenges in any “survey” is getting 100% of responses. Often people will read an email and want to reply, but in the hustle and bustle of a day, these requests can fall through the cracks. My suggestion to anyone is to keep it as simple as possible, as the goal is quality responses without overwhelming reviewers. So here are 4 brief questions you can ask any set of key work partners, which should yield substantial information which will enable constructive follow up conversations with each team member:

Q1. When thinking about this ROLE (not the person), what does excellence in this role look like as it relates to your position? What actions, behaviors would make this role excellent in partnership/support of you and your team?

  • I have intentionally added this question into the mix to get the reviewers to first think about what the ROLE or the JOB means. One concern is that reviewers will dive into dishing about the person, but adding this question, I believe, is a healthy way to get the person to think about exactly what should be done. I have also found that if reviewers stop to think about what the role should be doing, it helps to frame up the other questions.
  • The other reason this question is important is that it should provide a nice composite view of whether the reviewers think the role should be doing things that are consistent with your view as the leader. Are the reviewers only focusing on one aspect of the job? Are they sharing insights that perhaps you hadn’t thought about previously? Are people truly aligned with the vision for the role?

Q2. When thinking about the person, what should they START doing? (START means a value added activity or behavior that they do not exhibit today, but you would recommend they do)

  • This is the first question to address your associate’s performance directly. Most “Start” feedback is usually aimed at activities that could be adding value, but aren’t being done today. Some actions or behaviors could be gaps to what you expect out of the role. While many can be new activities that help to connect the reviewers to the team member.

Q3. When thinking about the person, what should they CONTINUE doing? (CONTINUE means a value added activity or behavior that they do today, and you recommend they continue to do it as it is adding value to you and your team)

  • Again, this is a question directed at the team member’s performance. Generally, these are things the “reviewee” is doing well. Ideally, these actions or behaviors can be reinforced in your review and even an opportunity for open dialog on how to take some to another level.

Q4. When thinking about the person, what should they STOP doing? (STOP means an activity or behavior that they do today that they should stop doing as it adds no value or is frustrating to work with)

  • This is the last question about the person, and this is the one with the “negative” or constructive feedback. As the “Stop” implies, this feedback will reveal key actions or behaviors that will require change. The good part is if the feedback is consistent, the input to the person can be more straightforward. If you get

The key for managers is to ensure that your team members are surveying enough people….I would suggest 6-10. Certainly you would think that the more feedback the merrier. However, too much feedback can create noise and make it tough to sort out the “signal” or the key message.

Rather than go for more feedback, the second challenge is making sure the feedback comes from a diverse group of reviewers. Certainly, peers inside and outside the organizations are valuable. But diversity should also imply happy customers and possibly some “unhappy” customers to give a good balance of input. For my teams I asked to dialog about the reviewers that they wanted to engage and we openly discussed if we needed to change out reviewers.

Remember, feedback is about development. The feedback mentioned above should help not only in the individual’s development, but could also give great insight into the growth and view of the entire organization. While the questions are “simple”, the input you get back can be rich. One last suggestion, please engage your own manager to follow the same process for yourself. At a minimum, you should be willing to collect the same feedback that you expect of your team members. But also if you consolidate feedback about the role and other items your team can see you as part of the growth of the entire organization.

What other questions would you ask to get feedback?

Here’s this week’s 5 for 5 articles:

How to Stop Overplanning (Even If You’re a Perfectionist) – by Elizabeth Grace Saunders – via HBR

When the day goes off the rails, how productive people get back track – by Laura Vanderkam – via Fortune

Be Dramatic, Be Memorable – by Nancy Duarte – via LinkedIn

Sooner or later, the critics move on – by Seth Godin – via @thisissethsblog

How The Most Creative People In Business Generate New Ideas – by Erin Schulte – via Fast Company

All the best, kevin