On a few occasions this blog has looked into the idea of giving and receiving feedback. Taking feedback, both positive and negative, reflecting on it, and applying it in a constructive way is a key factor in growing as a professional and as a person. But, it is also a key part of growing and developing as an organization.
Many organizations are keen on giving feedback to employees and expecting change but many top level managers are less excited to hear constructive criticism about themselves or the organization as a whole.
A friend of mine was recently consulting for a mid-sized service-based organization. The organization was already very successful having expanded quickly in recent years. A lot of its success was attributed to its focus on treating its employees and customers very well with an emphasis on truly knowing and valuing the people associated with the organization. My friend was called in because they wanted to be able to quantify their employee and customer satisfaction to better publicize these efforts.
What my friend found was that people were very satisfied with the efforts of the organization. Customers and employees alike gave the company extremely high scores across the board, particularly for the personal relationships that the organization fostered.
In addition to all of this positive feedback, however, the employees and clients interviewed also identified some things that the organization could improve. None of these items were major areas of concern or things that would cause their current employees and customers to walk away, instead they were opportunities for the company to become even better.
When my friend presented his findings to the CEO, he was expecting her to be thrilled with the results. It turned out that while she was happy with the overall scores, she fixated immediately on the areas people had identified for improvement. However, instead of asking herself what she and others at the organization could do to work on these things, she focused on discounting them and explaining why the people saying these things were outliers.
My friend left the meeting frustrated. While it was clear the CEO was happy with his work, he saw what was happening as a missed opportunity. The organization was doing very well and they had been given an opportunity to do even better. By discounting any negative feedback the CEO was saying that she didn’t want the company to fix anything unless the company was doing badly.
If a company truly wants to grow, everybody in the organization, including the top level managers, needs to acknowledge that there will always be areas where they could be doing better. A resilient organization is one that seeks out opportunities to learn. Resilient leaders create the psychological safety that encourages people to keep an open mind. As soon as people take the view that improvement only needs to happen when there are problems, problems will inevitably arise.
• What growth opportunities have you identified for your workplace recently?
• Who helped you find those points for improvement?