Friday, April 2, 2010

Giving the boss feedback...

Having to deal closely with anyone provide you useful insight into his or her performance. This is especially true of the boss, as he will likely see in a variety of settings: client meetings, presentations, one-on-ones, negotiations, etc. But even if that insight could be helpful as a boss, is it your place to share it with him? Could you be putting your job at risk by telling him what you see or by giving him frank or sometimes wrong advice? Giving the boss feedback, also known as upward feedback, can be a tricky process or at times may be detrimental to the one giving the advice. However, if offered correctly and thoughtfully, your insight not only help your immediate boss or supervisor, but also improve your working relationship.

Leadership could be all about perception; if leaders do not know how they are perceived, their performance might be down the drain. However, the higher up in an organization a leader sits, it may be harder to get “honest” or true feedback. Over reliance on the chain of command prevents leaders from hearing the “unvarnished” truth. Your input can help your boss see himself as others see him and help him to make critical adjustments in his tactic and approach. However, giving any kind of feedback requires careful thought

The relationship comes first :

The ability to give and receive upward feedback, like any form of feedback, is dependent on the relationship between you and your supervisor or immediate boss. Without trust, the feedback will be impossible to receive. Before giving feedback, you need to gauge whether your boss will be open and accept what you have to say. If you know that your boss is unreceptive to feedback, is likely to react negatively, or if you have a rocky relationship, then I think it's better not to say anything. If your boss is open-minded and you have a good relationship, you owe him the straight talk. As with any feedback, your intentions must be good and your desire to help your boss should supersede any issues you may have between you. But never criticise or talk bad about others in front of your boss. This will reflect badly your character and the boss will start to read or wake up to your profile !

Wait to be invited :

Even if you have a great relationship, launching into unsolicited feedback is ill-advised. General advice on how to be a better boss is tough to give unless you're asked for it. Ideally, your boss has asked for your input and made clear what would be helpful to him in terms of technical feedback. Do not go overboard and talk about something out of context with your boss. Your boss may disclose his development areas and ask you to keep an eye out for certain changes that he is working on.

If your boss does not directly request feedback, you can ask if he would like feedback. This is often most easily done in the context of a new project or new client. You can say something like "Would it be helpful to you for me to give you feedback at certain points in this project?" or "I'm likely to have a unique perspective on what we're doing, would you like some feedback about how the project is going?" Again, these questions must be presented with the best of intentions.

Focus :

It can be tempting when your boss is open to feedback, to imagine all the things you would do if you were in his position. However, your feedback should focus on what you are seeing or hearing. Share your perspective so that you can help your boss to see how others are seeing him. This can be invaluable to a leader who may be disconnected from people in the lower ranks.

Give feedback that is reflective of what you can see and avoid presuming what he is faced with. Do not assume and give the wrong signal to your boss. Remember that good feedback rules still apply. Your feedback should be honest and data-driven. Open with affirmative feedback and give constructive feedback with suggestions for improvement. Always avoid accusations.

Do not upset the boss :

No matter how carefully or thoughtfully you've prepared and delivered your feedback, your boss may get upset or be defensive about the feedback you've given. If you were asked for the feedback, hold your ground and explain that you were doing what was asked of you. Sometimes reframing the feedback can help. Gauge your boss reaction to determine how he likes to receive feedback and what topics are out of bounds. Perhaps he doesn't want to hear feedback about his communication style or a certain high-pressure initiative. Rather than clamming up after a negative reaction, take the opportunity to check in with him about what would be useful going forward.

When in doubt, hold your tongue :

If you're not sure if your boss wants to hear feedback or if the subject of the feedback is a sensitive one, it's always better to not speak up. There is no reason to risk your working relationship or your job, unless you feel your boss's behavior is putting the company or your unit in jeopardy.

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