Does a questionnaire help or hurt?
There has been much discussion whether the participants of a leadership dialogue should receive and fill out a feedback questionnaire before holding the dialogue itself. There are many voices pro and equally many contra in this question. It should be kept in mind, however, that questionnaires are structured and defined by the author and not by the individual filling them out. This means that the feedback is structured and filtered even before the dialogue can take place. This fact minimizes the ability of each individual to say what he/she really thinks, because the issues are determined by the confines of the questionnaire. Additionally, free flowing feedback better empowers individuals to expand their perhaps newly gained feedback skills to other situations. Giving and receiving feedback is always a learning process for both sides.
After the introduction, the group and the manager separate. The moderator stays with the group to facilitate brainstorming, discussion and finally the formulation of constructive feedback. The brainstorming can be done in one group or two smaller groups, depending on the number of participants. If more than one group is necessary, then additional time is needed to consolidate findings and agree on joint feedback. Generally speaking, there need be no limit to the number of “positive” points presented, but preferably the number of “growth” points should be limited to around three to five, depending on the complexity of the issues.
A practiced moderator will be able to guide the team in looking more closely at their feedback, thus often getting to the “core” issues from which many other issues stem. This helps the team consolidate and cluster the issues, thus facilitating a logical and understandable presentation. This group work can take from one and a half to two hours, depending on the number of participants and complexity of issues involved. Following the group work, the manager returns to the team for the presentation of findings. It is a matter of discussion whether the team or the manager should present their feedback first. Generally speaking, the “stronger” the personality of the manager, the more important it is that the team is allowed to present first. The danger is otherwise imminent that the team-member(s) presenting the feedback lose(s) confidence during the manager’s presentation. This loss of confidence can easily result in a weak presentation (particularly of the constructive points) and thus a minimized opportunity for growth (for both the manager and the team). Also, the less experience the team has in giving feedback and presentation in general, the greater the need for the team to be able to present first. After both the team and the manager has presented, a discussion of similarities and differences in the two viewpoints should result. This discussion has great merit in giving both sides greater insight into the perspective and situation of the other and increasing mutualunderstanding. The dialogue closes with the formulation of up to three goals for the next 12 months.