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Gleb Tsipursky

Customer Care

Effective Strategies to Gain Constructive Feedback

Don't let blindspots prevent you from incorporating feedback from stakeholders

Published: Thursday, September 1, 2022 - 11:03

Organizations need to incorporate constructive feedback from stakeholders to survive disruptions amid today’s turbulent economy. Securing constructive feedback is critical in helping you find which decisions are working and which ones aren’t. Yet, many organizations fail to engage effectively with their stakeholders due to a reluctance to incorporate and act on feedback. This results in communication gaps.

Why seek stakeholder feedback

Learning to incorporate constructive feedback is vital for building a trusting relationship and provides valuable insight into how stakeholders view and make decisions.

Recently, I met Alisha, my consulting firm’s client and the head of membership engagement at a professional manufacturing association. Alisha shared how communication gaps between the organization’s executives and its key stakeholders had strained their mutual relationship. Realizing the seriousness of the situation, she approached me for advice. She understood that to work effectively as head of membership engagement, she needed to learn the best ways to infer the truth about stakeholder opinions and the quality of the organization’s outreach.

Mental blind spots thwart progress

We often believe that we know our stakeholders well enough to fully understand their requirements, and thus fail to seek their input about essential matters. This judgment error, termed the false consensus effect, causes us to mistakenly believe that others share our beliefs. Fortunately, recent research has shown effective and pragmatic strategies to address judgment errors, such as constraining our choices by focusing on the top available options. By doing so, we can improve our stakeholder engagement.

Other types of biases also affect our decision making. Members often suggest changes that make executives highly uncomfortable. Therefore some leaders fall for the status quo bias, a desire to maintain what they see as the right way of doing things. Another is the confirmation bias, where we follow a natural tendency to avoid accepting information that counters our beliefs.

Learn to love constructive feedback

When I met Alisha, I told her that it’s vital that she work to inculcate a new workplace culture fit for the future of work. The culture should encourage all organizational leaders to appreciate and obtain constructive feedback. This approach also allows them to use such feedback to engage with stakeholders effectively.

Our inclination to avoid information that opposes our beliefs (confirmation bias) is dangerous for modern-day organizations.

Constructive feedback allows leaders to identify the perceptions of the stakeholder accurately, rather than what we would want it to be. I explained to Alisha that perceptions and reality matter equally in stakeholder engagement. Thus, leaders must learn about these filters to effectively engage stakeholders. Naturally, getting constructive feedback is a great way to achieve this goal.

How to gain effective, constructive stakeholder feedback

There are several ways to obtain constructive feedback from stakeholders. The easiest is active feedback. This means asking targeted questions to yield precise answers.

We can also apply social intelligence to get passive feedback from stakeholders by analyzing their behavior, words, and actions. Social intelligence refers to the strategic capacity to evaluate other people’s emotions and relationships.

Research in cognitive neuroscience shows that it is our emotions, not thoughts, that determine most of our behavior.

I shared the following methods with Alisha to help her receive quality stakeholder feedback during their outreach assessment meeting.

Getting active feedback

• Ask how they feel about what you’re saying to explore their emotions on the topic.

• Ask them what they think about what you’re saying. This gives you an insight into their beliefs about the topic.

• Ask how well their experience aligns with what you’re saying. Learning about their personal experiences provides insight into the influences behind their perceptions.

• Formulate other topic-specific questions. Each kind of question about feedback will help you understand their filters.

Alisha decided to arrange a meeting with the stakeholders. The meeting atmosphere was initially tense. However, the mood lifted as members were actively asked questions, and they realized that she was sincere about understanding them. Eventually, the members started to express their opinions on recent decisions. Alisha was able to address their reservations by offering reasonable explanations for each point.

Getting passive feedback

You can also learn about stakeholders indirectly through passive feedback.

• Give them time to absorb what you’re saying. Offering sufficient room for response allows them to express themselves comfortably, giving you an understanding of their filters.

• Observe their communication with others about what you’re saying. This intercommunication is an insight into their perceptions.

• Observe comments on social media, blogs, and other public interactions. This offers you an unguarded understanding of their personal filters.

• Depending on your topic, there can be other passive feedback methods.

You should acknowledge feedback and adjust your actions accordingly. Gradually, this feedback will help you understand your stakeholders and improve your stakeholder engagement.

Three months after her consultation, Alisha shared great news. She told me how the association implemented my suggestions and noticed a significant improvement in their stakeholder engagement. By bridging the communication gaps, the C-suite found it much easier to reach amicable compromises on points of contention.

Conclusion

Leaders often fall prey to cognitive biases that prevent them from incorporating feedback from stakeholders. The best way to ensure that you stay on the same page as your stakeholders is to regularly obtain constructive feedback. You can achieve this by proactively applying best practices for seeking active and passive feedback. By doing so, you’ll be able to bridge communication gaps and improve stakeholder engagement.

Discuss

About The Author

Gleb Tsipursky’s picture

Gleb Tsipursky

Dr. Gleb Tsipursky helps quality professionals make the wisest decisions on the future of work as the CEO of the boutique future-of-work consultancy Disaster Avoidance Experts. He is the best-selling author of seven books, including Never Go With Your Gut: How Pioneering Leaders Make the Best Decisions and Avoid Business Disasters and Leading Hybrid and Remote Teams: A Manual on Benchmarking to Best Practices for Competitive Advantage. His cutting-edge thought leadership has been featured in more than 650 articles in prominent publications such as Harvard Business Review, Fortune, and USA Today. His expertise comes from more than 20 years of consulting for Fortune 500 companies from Aflac to Xerox and more than 15 years in academia as a cognitive scientist at UNC-Chapel Hill and Ohio State. Contact him at Gleb[at]DisasterAvoidanceExperts[dot]com, Twitter@gleb_tsipursky, Instagram@dr_gleb_tsipurskyLinkedIn, and register for his Wise Decision Maker Course.