Influencing is an important aspect of leadership. For individuals in the process of transition of evolving into leaders, right feedback on their influencing ability is critical. They need this information to measure their progress at learning it and to assess whether their approach to the learning is still relevant. This means, getting the right feedback is a vital part of the process of transformation into a leader. And the best source of the feedback is people working under them.
Learning to influence others is a long process that involves careful observation, repeated experimentation, deep analysis, intelligent interpretation and confirmation of facts. It is a never-ending process. Gaining even significant level of expertise can take a long time.
Strategies to influence differ with person time and situation; insight to choosing the right one comes from experience. And getting feedback is intrinsic to gaining experience.
Feedback can be obtained through several means. However, if you are really keen on learning from it, you should ensure that it is useful- that the information is complete, correct and comprehensible.
As a manager, your busy schedule may tempt you to assign the task of gathering feedback to a team member or HR personnel. But if you want to get your facts right, do not rely on second-hand reports from others. Meet your employees, ask them and listen to what they have to say. This way, you not only get information about what they think about different but can also assess the influence of your words and actions on them, rather each of them.
Usually managers are good at giving messages, but are bad at following it up. To be able to cause the targeted changes, you have to gauge the inputs of your message, tailor it according to the reactions of your audience and reiterate it in a more suitable way.
This is especially relevant when you are trying to bring in some radical changes at the workplace. The following is some advice on getting the right feedback to be able to assess the impact of your message:
Elicit opinion: Spend time with your team. Make yourself visible by visiting them at their cabins every now and then. Be friendly and accessible so your team members feel comfortable engaging in conversation with you. Talk about products, services, policies and procedures. Ask them to share their opinion about them with you. Discussing about these issues will over a period of time give them courage to give you feedback about your performance.
Initially your team members will be reluctant to share their opinion with you. You may not be able to extract anything more than ‘everything is fine'. Do not be convinced by that answer and start believing that everything is really going well. Do not get frustrated that they are not open and give up either.
Keep meeting them and encourage them to talk to you. Be friendly with them. Make them feel safe about sharing views with you. Ask more questions to extract information; reframing your sentences could be helpful. Impress upon them that you genuinely value their inputs.
Once your team is comfortable discussing their opinions with you, seek feedback about your performance. Be objective and focus on the specific details instead of putting vague questions like “what do you thing about my communication skill?” Learn to read between the lines because it is from here you get the correct feedback.
Build rapport: Tell your team how their inputs were put in use. Communicate to them how they contributed to improving things around them. Appreciate them even if the feedback they gave was about your performance. This will make them feel valued and encourage them to further share their views, problems and expectations with you. It will also help you to build a credible and trust based relationship with them, which will further facilitate exchange of right feedback.
Getting the right feedback is just not as simple as asking direct questions about the particular issue and recording the answers. It involves first building rapport with the team members, posing questions that can help you extract the right feedback, analysing the answers and then confirming the conclusions you draw by further querying. And in this whole process, your interaction with your team plays the pivotal role. So devise a well-defined strategy before you seek feedback from your team.
Nitya Sai Soumya