If there’s one thing we need to be successful in life, it’s feedback – a powerful, FREE tool in our management arsenal – yet it is SO underutilized. Why is this an issue? And, when feedback is given, why is it often given poorly? According to a recent Gallup poll, only 26% of employees strongly agree that the feedback they receive helps them improve their work.

The TED podcast WorkLife With Adam Grant explores why people detest hearing negative feedback. When confronted with negative feedback, we have a certain physiological response, according to Adams. We tense up, our breathing gets shallower, and our ego becomes so threatened it starts to limit the information that goes into our brains. 

In Radical Candor, author Kim Scott says the best feedback is radically candid; it challenges directly while showing you care personally. The fact that you can’t offer actual help shouldn’t make you reluctant to offer feedback. Adopting the mindset that feedback is a gift will ensure your feedback is helpful.

The skills needed to give and receive feedback are teachable; effective leaders actively seek feedback to enhance their performance. In addition to boosting employee satisfaction and productivity, feedback is motivating and helps employees feel a sense of involvement with their organization.

One of my core values, Feedback is a Gift, is more of a mantra! I believe all processes are better with feedback and strategy is no exception. Unfortunately, many times I hear about leadership teams who roll-out a strategic plan and it just “sits on the shelf.” I think a main reason for this is a lack of buy-in and engagement.

Recently I was reminded of the phase, “Go slow to go fast.” This is absolutely critical when it comes to strategic planning. Three years ago, I changed the title of the 1st phase in my Strategy in Motion™ process from “Preparing to Plan” to “Listen and Learn.” This means an internal and external analysis to collect data, challenge assumptions, and – most importantly – learn something new. 😊

Here are key steps in the Listen and Learn Phase:

  • Key Stakeholder goals. What is important to the ownership in the next 3-5 years? You need to ask them!
  • Financial overview and current momentum. What do the past 3 years of financial data tell us about the next 3 years? This one may be a little hard these days due to the Pandemic.
  • Employee feedback. How do employees view what is working well (strengths) with the organization and what is not working well (weaknesses)? What would they change if they had magic wand (I love this one!)?
  • Customer feedback. Why do they buy from your organization (differentiators), what is holding them back from buying more (opportunities or threats)? I recommend customer interviews for your top 10 customers.
  • Competitor Analysis. Who are our key competitors, what do they do well and not do well (how can we beat them)?
  • Industry/Market Analysis. What are the key trends and challenges our company should be prepared to take advantage of (opportunities) or to protect ourselves (threats)? Does this change our key business model assumptions?

Okay, so, now you are saying, how do I get started? Well, as Nike says, Just Do It! Strategic planning requires discipline and action but should not be complicated and painful. Many companies have successfully developed a strategic plan. I have led more than 300 strategic planning processes over the past 20 years. There are many resources online and in your community who can help. Just call a friend. 😊