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Leading Improvement through Honest Feedback

if it hurts, do it more often

When was the last time that a waitress asked about your meal and you were really honest?

Don’t feel ashamed. I’ve definitively been there. Saying that the meal was good when It was dry or too salty for your taste, is more common than we can think.

Unfortunately, being honest when something is wrong isn’t something that we humans tend to feel comfortable about.

Probably you are asking: why the hell should I be honest and risk to advancing into a difficult conversion?!

Because the worst kind of feedback is fake feedback.

Leading improvement

Have you ever thought that the restaurant could have done something to improve if you have been sincere? Wouldn’t you love to have customers telling you what you should do, to delight them?

The reality is that without the truth, we can’t improve.

Empty criticism and snark does no one any good. But genuine, useful, insightful feedback is a priceless gift.

Seth Godin

Promote feedback

When you give good feedback, you are showing kindness, even when it’s not positive feedback. They should see you as a Consultant that doesn’t send a bill. Next time that you aren’t sure if you should speak up, remember that in the end, they should thank you for the consideration.

Obviously that in a few cases you will find fences. Some people prefer to ignore and to resist, but in those cases, just move on. They won’t be in the business for too long for sure.

To empower mutual constructive feedback, make sure you respond to honest feedback with a “Thank you”.
If you don’t assume a defensive posture and you really look grateful, you will be encouraging the behavior.

It can be difficult

The DevOps community has a mantra with which I agree: “if it hurts, do it more often”. I believe that this applies to feedback also. It may be uncomfortable to start asking for honest feedback or even more to start giving feedback, especially when isn’t that good. But, if you do it over and over again, you will see that it will become natural and you will stop overthinking about it.

It’s really important not to be ashamed for pointing out negative things, because when you always give “OK answers”, your honest positive comments will not have an impact. If you are known as the guy who speaks honestly, you will be taken into consideration.

Make it easy

Since feedback is so valuable, why do we tend to make so difficult for others to give us feedback?

Probably I want to tell you how I feel when I’m using your product, but at the moment when I understand that I need to create a user in a website and fill a 20 field long bug report, you can be sure that I will move on the next time I have an improvement idea.

So, please bring to your systems a simple way to collect feedback. Anyone should be able to leave you a note in 40 seconds and feel selfless, instead of 5 minutes of swearing and disappointment. If you are concerned that 40 seconds won’t be enough to capture all you need to know from the user, I bet that the user will be happier to answer an email with your questions afterward than upfront. At least they know that you have listened. No one wants to speak with a database, specially if nobody cares about it.

Remember that a good idea can arise anywhere at any time.

How to give honest feedback

Being honest doesn’t mean being rudely honest. No one wants to feel like being part of a Kitchen Nightmares episode, with Chef Gordon Ramsay yelling how incompetent we must be. That’s not fun.

There are better ways to deliver feedback. I’ve 5 tips that you can start with:

  1. Be humble.
  2. Express your feedback as an opinion. For example, saying that the food is “Full of salt” is different than saying “Is too salty for my taste”.
  3. Expose only your top 3 ideas. Don’t be too nitpicking. Having a “shopping list” of stuff won’t help.
  4. Balance positive feedback with negative feedback. When we have something bad to say, we can easily forget to say good things.
  5. If you have an idea on how to improve, say it!

Valuable Feedback

Wrapping up

We live in a society that seeks approval in social networks, and that thinks that a “Like” is a good kind of feedback. This causes an illusion about the impact we have on society. So, next time you see that a given person, service or product has a positive impact on you, don’t limit yourself to follow them on Facebook or Instagram. Go ahead and send them a message telling how was your experience.

And if you are providing a service or selling a product, make sure you make it easy to receive feedback and encourage your customer to do it.

Are you ready to give it a try? I have a challenge for you. In the next 24 hours, make sure you:

  1. Send a message to one of your favorite services, telling them one thing that they can do that would improve your experience. Don’t forget to tell them to keep up with the good work. 😉
  2. Say thanks to someone that positively impacted your life and you know that you never told them.
  3. Leave your honest feedback to this post bellow 😊