Does This Make Me Look Fat?

Published: November 10, 2014

Ask the tough questions only when you truly want the answers. Requests for feedback are often misunderstood as appeals for praise. Why ask unless you are prepared to absorb the critique and make the changes it evokes? Consider intensifying the challenge. Rather than asking a friend, ask a stranger. Instead of soliciting one opinion, ignite a feedback circle. Here's an example:

The Team Clock Institute routinely employs feedback circles as a means of sharing best practices. The collaboration exercise is simple. Once the team has completed the assessment of their circumstances and leveraged the data to generate action plans, each teammate provides a five-minute summary of their plan so that everyone can offer commentary. Sometimes, the feedback comes in the form of challenging the efficacy of the plan. Other times, a colleague serves up some wisdom from past experience. Occasionally, a “thumbs-up” provide just the validation needed to move past fear. If the presenter is lucky, the conversation sparks an innovation.

Gain the wisdom of your circle. Venture beyond the trusted insiders and pose your questions to the outsiders with the least to lose by telling the truth. Invite your loudest partners to quiet down so your most timid collaborators can be heard. Pay closest attention to the feedback that generates the strongest emotion. Often, it’s what’s not being said that is most important.

Photo of Steve Ritter, the co-founder of The Center for Team Excellence

Steve Ritter

Steve Ritter is an internationally recognized expert on team dynamics whose clients include Fortune 500 companies, professional sports teams, and many educational organizations. He is on the faculty of the Center for Professional Excellence at Elmhurst University where he earned the President's Award for Excellence in Teaching. Steve is the former Senior Vice President, Director of Human Resources at Leaders Bank, named the #1 Best Place to Work in Illinois in 2006 and winner of the American Psychological Association's Psychologically Healthy Workplace Award in 2010. Steve provides ongoing workplace culture consultation to many thriving companies including Kraft Foods, Advocate Health Care, Kellogg's, the Chicago White Sox, AthletiCo, and Northwestern Mutual Financial Network.