/ #leadership #books #feedback 

The leader's feedback

I recently read the Guide to One to One Meetings by Claire Lew from Know Your Company.

One of the best question to ask according to the guide is about manager feedback :

Would you like more or less direction from me?

As managers, we crave feedback from our employees but I never thought of asking this question directly.

I used to ask for this kind of feedback in a team setting with retrospectives or during a one to one with more general questions like “What do you think of the Company?”, “What would you like to change?” But I never before asked for direct feedback about how I manage them.

I tried and the answer I received was:

Oh, I’ve never thought about that! I’ll think about it for our next one to one.

This answer clarified to me that giving feedback to a manager is not self-evident.

Audience feedback

Improv workshops are organized around this idea of feedback. Keith Johnstone in Impro for storytellers talk about being educated by the audience :

When I was young we thought that we should educate the audience, but I began to suspect that the audience should be educating us.

  • But, Keith, we have the knowledge!
  • No, we don’t! We’re just guessing, but they know when to laugh, and when to be silent, and when to weep, and when to unwrap their chocolates. They may not be able to verbalize their knowledge, but they have it.

Keith Johnstone - Impro for Storytellers (p. 31)

I have the same feeling about my team’s feedback. We’re just guessing, but they know when they feel bad, when they are disengaged, when our management is inadequate. They may not be able to verbalize their knowledge but they have it.

The two minds

There is one helpful Keith Johnstone game to illustrate this difference between what we think we should do and _what the audience want _: “What comes next with a committee.”

A committee of three or four players are in front of the audience, facing the stage. They are the directors of the scene and they decide what will come next.

An actor is playing what the committee decided and when they don’t know what to do, they ask “What comes next?” to the director and so on.

The audience is here to give direct feedback on the committee’s propositions. They make a sound, “ding,” if they like the proposition and “Mmmm” if they don’t like it.

  • Actor : What comes next?
  • Committee : You are walking in a Jungle
    [Audience goes Ding!]
  • Actor (start walking) : What comes next?
  • Comittee : You discover a hidden temple
    [Audience goes Ding!]
  • Actor : What comes next?
  • Comittee : An alien come out of the temple.
    [Audience goes Mmmm!]
  • Comittee : You enter the temple!
    [Audience goes Ding!]
  • Actor (enters the temple) : What comes next?
  • etc.

This game brings some very unexpected and funny situations. First, most of the time, the audience is unanimous, the entire audience knows what is good or bad even if it’s a spontaneous reaction.

At some point, the committee is no longer able to make an acceptable proposition to the audience. As if becoming a director, the committee’s members lost all that they like as an audience!

This committee isn’t any different from the audience, but in the role of deciding what will happen, they become unaware of what should happen as if we had two minds that cannot efficiently work together.

Asking for feedback about your management is like asking the audience… they know.

And you, how do you ask for feedback on your leadership style?

Photo by Davide Ragusa.


Baptiste Coulange

CTO at @cornis_SAS / socially acceptable maths nerd of @podcastscience / always improvising