Heads Up

As a leader it can be hard to get quality feedback from your team as people have a natural and understandable reticence about giving their boss feedback.

But without it our own professional development is starved.

Here are 3 ideas to help you encourage feedback from your team.

Creating two-way feedback when you’re the boss

Two-way feedback is important for our development, but the higher up you move, the less quality feedback you get. I know being a school leader, particularly a headteacher, can sometimes feel like being a punch bag from all angles, but these are rarely pieces of feedback that allow you to develop, they are often problems for you to fix.

You might have some great two-way feedback relationships with colleagues in your school already, those people who help you improve your performance and conduct. You might want to develop some more and there are three ways to create more two-way feedback for you and your team.

Musical chairs

In one of my John Lewis branches our personnel manager hared this tool with our steering group and we loved it!

Once a month we’d play musical chairs.

We would pair up with each team member and share something we thought they did well and something we thought they could improve on. We made sure both pieces of feedback were specific and had examples.

The good feedback felt exhilarating, while the constructive feedback felt helpful. Because the game included genuinely positive comments and observations about our blind spots, it didn’t feel like the person was being insincere in saying something good just to say they could deliver something bad.

You might like to try this enjoyable activity with your SLT.

Ask two questions

I’ve seen this done via email with a bit of preamble along the lines of ‘I’m looking for feedback to help me know what I do well and see where I can improve. If you’re willing to help me please can you answer these two questions’.

What can you rely on me for? 

What can’t you rely on me for?

Simple as that. You can ask colleagues, family or friends; any area of your life you would like to get feedback on. This can also be done via an anonymous response system through a ‘post box’ in the staffroom, to allow people to speak freely.

Capitalise on new team members 

A golden opportunity to create two-way feedback culture is with new team members. Ask for feedback early in your into your working relationship and, when they give this to you, make sure you model receiving feedback and accept it unless it’s poor quality feedback. Show them you welcome feedback. It may or may not be appropriate for you to give them feedback in the same meeting; that’s a judgement call on your part. When you do give them feedback, model how to do it well. If their feedback is poor quality, explain to them that you’d like to be able to use their feedback and explain what would make their feedback easier to understand and act on. Encourage them to give feedback again.

You want to forge a great feedback relation, which will help both of you develop.

For further tips and practical advice on how to manage those tricky conversations, read my book ‘Successful difficult conversations in schools’, ranked #1 in education theory on Amazon: https://ukheadsup.com/sdcbook/