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Observe more. Ask questions.

As a follow up to an earlier piece on feedback, I reached out to Bridget — a friend and HR executive — to get her professional take on how to best approach the gathering of feedback.

These were my takeaways:

  • It would be helpful to have an actual conversation…maybe not with each and everyone, but a few.
  • Send an introductory email along with your survey, something like the message I sent ahead of this conversation. (e.g. “Between client work and not having an annual review, I realize I really need to build in some feedback loops for myself. And I’m looking for your input.”)
  • Anonymity is important.
  • People will gravitate towards the positive if they know that you know it’s them. That’s been my experience.
  • If it is a service or a product you could setup follow up conversations, but where personalities are concerned… (when asked if I could give the respondent the opportunity to opt into a post-survey live conversation)
  • You probably want to get feedback on behavioral stuff, which can be hard to swallow
  • I always ask “Would you recommend this person to a friend or colleague” in the context of, say, fast-forward 10-15 years, someone contacts you and says, “Hi, I’m going to be working with Donald, what do you think of him?”
  • What am I doing well?
  • What should I be focusing on improving?
  • What do you wish I could do better?
  • Start with the positives. If they can say the positives, they are more likely to be able to say the negatives afterwards.
  • You’re doing this on your own, for your own benefit, you’re actively soliciting feedback, so people are going to be honest with you.
  • We ask the same question a couple different ways.

She is going to dig around for some 360-review type questions to help so me a potential framework for the survey, for which I am grateful. This conversation alone gave me a much better sense for the things that matter most as I build the survey.

One lingering question was really cleared up for me: who am I sending this to? The most sensible thing seems to be separating the behavioral questions from the project-based questions. I might give the behavioral questions to a select handful of people, while the broader project-based work questions would go to everyone I interact with, across departments.

I will also plan to sit down with my supervisor afterwards, once I have all the survey input, and have a chance to review and reflect on what I have read. He and I can discuss his feedback and I can leverage his perspective when it comes to better understanding the overall feedback I receive.

On another note, I have really enjoyed using Typeform to publish my surveys. It has a conversational flow to how the questions are served up. But recently, Survey Monkey has had a major facelift to its services and for this and other upcoming surveys I am going to give it a try.

Next step is to build the survey. I am going to send it to Bridget, too, to get her opinions before I launch it to a few colleagues.