I lead a business unit in a global services company. Our sector is highly competitive and it is “go go go” all day, every day.
Our company recently instituted an internal survey designed to measure employee experience and asked business units and departments to give feedback on each other. Our business unit got the results from the first survey and the news was pretty good. We got a total score of 4.4 out of 5, which means that on average everyone who interacts with our team is more than satisfied with us.
One thing my team and I did get marked low on was being “slow to respond.” My people were upset about this and I am, too. We often need to research, think about, and discuss our responses when we are asked for help, so it is rare that we can just fire off a solution right away.
I didn’t think the survey was the place to call out individuals and I feel embarrassed and exposed. I have no way of knowing who said what or defending myself and my team.
What do you think I should do?
Dear Got Dinged,
Nothing. Don’t do anything right now. You can do something once you have had a chance to cool off, calm down, and notice how defensive you feel. Feedback that makes us feel judged and found wanting can cause the release of the stress hormones cortisol and adrenaline, which generate the “fight or flight” response. No one is thinking clearly when that is happening.
Once you are feeling rational again, ask yourself the question that will help you to stay open and curious about the topic: “What if this feedback were true?”
The truth is that even if you could explain yourself, nobody is really interested in why you are slow to respond. The better place to focus your energy is to ask yourself a second question: “How important is this to my success and the success of my team?”
If your organization has a norm where everyone must respond within 24 hours, you’re going against company norms—which may or may not be OK with you. If you’re going to march to your own drummer, you will need to be OK taking a little flack for it. If you’re not OK with taking flack, you can make a commitment to changing your ways. The one thing to consider is that even if you can’t get a full answer to someone, you can respond by saying, “Got your request, need to do a little footwork and think it through. Expect an answer by ____.” That is a response, and it only takes four seconds to do it.
Then check in with your team. Say, “We can see in the survey that some folks experience us as slow to respond. Are there instances where you can see that they might have a point?” Discuss. Walk through the same progression you already put yourself through. Decide how important it is to the team to change the perception. If it seems to be important, let the team brainstorm solutions toward that outcome.
The survey was a jolt from left field. Take the data and decide how it may be useful to you. Decide what, if anything, you might want to do about it. If you decide to do something, make a plan and commit to it. Otherwise, let it go.
PS: You might also want to consider giving feedback directly to anyone you might have dinged on the survey to ensure you don’t perpetuate the behavior that has made you so unhappy. Just because technology makes it easier to give feedback anonymously, doesn’t mean it is the right thing to do.
About the author
Madeleine Homan Blanchard is a master certified coach, author, speaker, and cofounder of Blanchard Coaching Services. Madeleine’s Advice for the Well Intentioned Manager is a regular Saturday feature for a very select group: well intentioned managers. Leadership is hard—and the more you care, the harder it gets. Join us here each week for insight, resources, and conversation.
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