Feedback is the lifeblood of improvement. It can give us key insights into those elements of our work that we have overlooked, that we can improve upon, or that we should stop doing altogether.
As a service director I get feedback in myriad forms from myriad sources. Feedback surveys from staff and stakeholders. Supervision sessions with managers. The behaviours of young people and my conversations with them. P&L sheets from our finance department. SMT meetings. LAC reviews. Conversations with social workers and other professionals. CIW. The list goes on!
Some of this feedback is actively solicited; some acquired passively; and other feedback-compliments and complaints, for example- is actively given to me by outside agencies.
Altogether, the amount of feedback I receive constitutes an immense amount of data to be sifted, analysed, tracked and acted upon.
But should all feedback be treated equally?
One thing not often considered is the context and quality of the feedback we receive.
I recall an incident some years back in which a child in our care was causing a disturbance. I was approached by a neighbour as I left shift, who complained about the noise and disruption being caused. We’d had several incidents of a similar nature over a relatively short period, and our responses to his behaviour weren’t working. Did I take on board that it was disruptive and distressful to the community? Of course. Did I take on board the criticism that, “what you’re doing isn’t working”? Of course; that was self-evident. Did I take on board that “that child shouldn’t be here”? Of course not. Everyone has to live someplace, and we had seen improvements in his behaviour and engagement, even if that wasn’t apparent to everyone, even amongst their staff team. Did I take on board her criticism that I “shouldn’t be working with children ‘like that’” as I “obviously didn’t know what I was doing”? Of course not. What would be the point in considering criticism of my ability to do my job from someone with no idea of what that job entails?
This is not to say that feedback should be dismissed out of hand. In the above example, whilst I didn’t respond to the criticism of my ability to do my job, I was able to take from the conversation how upset and angry the neighbour was.
Most of us have worked with negative colleagues who seem permanently disgruntled. But being a negative person doesn’t mean all their opinions are not valid. I’ve seen too many examples of where an opinion is based on how the listener perceives the person giving feedback rather than the feedback’s own merits. We must be careful not to dismiss a person’s contributions because their opinions are contrary, cause us too much work or are difficult to address. Equally, we must be careful not to find ourselves beholden to the whims of every person who feels entitled to give you their opinion no matter how ill-informed - their right to speak up does not automatically equate to an obligation on your part. Have you ever found yourself suck in the queue at a customer service desk behind an unreasonable customer being pandered to because “the customer is always right”? The fact is, the customer is not always right and there’s often nothing wrong in being honest with them about that.
The skill is in discerning which feedback to act upon.
This is the page I'll update most often, with thoughts and opinions on management, writing, and what I've been watching or listening to. So dip in and see what takes your fancy.