A Simple Way to Get the Feedback You Need to Be a Better Leader

AdVance Leadership » A Simple Way to Get the Feedback You Need to Be a Better Leader

Welcome to Friday 411, issue #064. In 4 minutes, with 1 insight and 1 action, you’ll learn how to use three questions to improve your leadership and your team’s performance.

1 Insight

Using Stop-Start-Continue questions can improve your leadership by gaining specific feedback from the people you lead.

In a recent newsletter, I (Garland) shared about a time when I had a big vision that no one was buying into. I realized that the problem wasn’t the vision. It was me. People weren’t going to buy into the vision until they bought into me.
If you need more context, you can read the whole article here. Here’s an excerpt (or skip ahead to The Three Questions heading below.)
I discovered the reasons that people weren’t following my vision when I received anonymous evaluations of my leadership. The feedback revealed:

  1. I was intensely focused on tasks and could get frustrated when interrupted.
  2. I was not approachable and seemed impatient in conversations.
  3. I would get frustrated when people needed my help.

The problem was not that people weren’t bought into the vision. They weren’t bought into me. They didn’t value the vision because they didn’t feel valued by me.

The Three Questions

I had always viewed myself as an approachable, people-oriented person and had no idea how intense I could come across. I needed to grow in my self-knowledge so that I could lead others better. While I recognized that I had behaviors that caused my team to disengage from my leadership, I was blind to the behaviors causing problems.
I needed to get outside perspective.
I brought the challenge to a mentor. He encouraged me to talk to members of the team and helped me craft three questions to get feedback.
Those three questions influenced my leadership for years to come.
My mentor encouraged me to sit down with each member of my team and say:

“Leading you is a tremendous privilege, and I want to do that to the best of my abilities. I’m going to ask you three questions so that I can learn to  lead you better. To be clear, you are making suggestions, and I reserve the right to choose which suggestions I want to use. Is that alright with you?”

When the person agreed, I would ask them three questions that changed my leadership. These questions are based on the simple formula of Stop-Start-Continue.

  1. What am I currently doing that I should stop doing?
  2. What am I not doing that I should start doing?
  3. What am I currently doing that I should continue doing?

But there’s more to the story.
I found these questions to be so helpful that I incorporated them into every one-on-one meeting I had with my direct reports. I would ask them what I needed to stop doing, start doing, and continue doing. Then, I would ask their permission to give feedback on what they needed to stop, start, or continue.

How to Use Stop-Start-Continue in One-on-Ones

Great athletic coaches understand that they have to adapt their coaching style to different players on their team. As a leader, you have a similar challenge. Your team will change regularly as people move on to new jobs or other roles. You have to continually find new ways to lead your team well. These three questions can help you become the leader your team needs you to be.
Here are a few suggestions for how to incorporate these questions into your one-on-ones:

1. Ask every month.

Ask the same three questions to each member of your team every month. The questions become more powerful with Consistency. The more frequently you ask these questions, the more quickly you can discover:

  • Challenges that are holding back your leadership
  • Problems that need to be addressed quickly
  • Best practices that your team appreciates

2. Be Patient.

It will take a few months for each team member to realize that you’re going to ask the same questions. Even if you tell them, they won’t necessarily come prepared. Eventually, though, they’ll have thought through their answers to these questions before the meeting starts.

3. Look for themes.

The longer you ask these questions, the more you’ll start picking up on themes and patterns. For example, you might have several people mention that they’d like you to stop being “short” with them. That gives you insight that you’re too blunt for your team. You need to temper your directness with kindness.

4. Review progress each month.

Each time you meet, evaluate your progress on previous Start-Stop-Continue requests. For example, imagine one of your direct reports gives you feedback that you need to stop joking around about firing people. He tells you that anytime someone disagrees with you, you say, “Don’t make me fire you.” He knows that you’re kidding, but it still creates low-level fear in others.
You take the feedback to heart and make a concerted effort to stop that line of joking. During the next one-on-one, review your progress. Ask the person if you’ve made progress in this area. Find out if they’ve noticed any other ways that you inadvertently create fear.

5. Give feedback using Stop-Start-Continue.

If you’re a supervisor, you have the right and responsibility to give feedback to your direct reports. Using the Stop- Start-Continue method is a great way to help your team learn to grow.

6. Use it in personal relationships.

One final suggestion: use the questions in your personal relationships as well. The answers can help you be a better spouse, partner, parent, and friend.
All of us have blindspots. But that doesn’t excuse you from finding out what your blindspots are. Use Stop-Start- Continue to gain insights.

1 Action

Start asking your Direct Reports for feedback using Stop-Start-Continue questions.


Want to help your company unleash its leaders?

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