Here are five elements for you to consider when writing a thoughtful response to a comment. These will help you formulate responses that will let employees know that you care about them and their input.
THE FIVE ELEMENTS OF A MEANINGFUL RESPONSE
Element # 1: Name the situation/feeling that is being referenced
Start your response by pointing out the specific situation and/or feeling the original comment references.
For example: "I am sorry to hear that you did not feel heard during our last meeting..." or "I am thrilled that you are excited about our new professional development opportunities."
It may seem like you are merely repeating what was already stated, but doing so in your own words, actually lets the author know that you have read and understood their comment.
Element # 2: Express appreciation for the feedback
Explicitly state your appreciation for the feedback. One can be grateful for feedback without necessarily agreeing with everything that is being said or written. An appreciative tone will minimize defensiveness, especially in the context of criticism.
A simple, "I am grateful for your perspective" or "Thank you for taking the time to share your thoughts" can go a long way - as long as it is not followed by a 'but...'.
Element # 3: Mention what will be different moving forward
Regardless of whether ideas are explicitly referenced in the original comment, you should identify a behavior, process, or thing that will be different moving forward.
For example, "I will ensure everyone gets the opportunity to speak next time by keeping better track of our time."
Keep in mind: 'Different' does not necessarily mean 'new,' as your response may suggest discontinuation or more/less of an existing behavior, such as, "I will do my best to identify additional professional development opportunities." You may also simply state that you need more time to think of an appropriate response or solution
For example: "I will take some time to think about how we can improve X and will get back to you."
Asking for more time to respond humanizes you and shows that you care about employees, but also about coming up with a solid solution.
Element # 4: State the benefit of the change(s)
Individuals reading your response will be much more open to what you have to say, if they see that you have thought through your response and are able to see benefits to your suggested change(s).
For example, "Once I had more time to think about some possible solutions, we will be better equipped to collaboratively improve the status quo" or "Keeping better track of our meeting time will ensure a more equitable balance between participants and a more effective meeting structure."
You may feel like you are stating the obvious, but it is important to articulate the benefits to others, who may not see them as clearly.
Element # 5: End on a strong note
There are many ways to end a meaningful response. You could simply summarize the take-away from the exchange or could end your response with a call to participation or gratitude. While the summary is rather self-explanatory, a call to participation can be powerful because it asks employees to actively contribute to your plan.
For example, "I hope you will all help me create balanced meetings by giving your colleagues your undivided attention and chance to speak" or "Please join me at our next planning meeting where we will discuss possible solutions for X."
If this is not your style or the context does not allow it, a few words that express gratitude can ensure everyone leaves the exchange with a positive feeling.
For instance, "I appreciate your perspective and am grateful for your trust."
Even though you may not have a solution that will satisfy everyone, you are pointing out that there is trust, which is a good foundation for continuing these productive conversations. Whatever it is that you mention, make sure that it is something you authentically value.
At the end of the day: A sincere response is the best response!
Now, let's put it all together and see how it's done:
"I am disappointed to hear that you do not feel that career advancement opportunities for you exist at our organization. I welcome this feedback, and hope to put it to good use by working with HR and team leads to ensure everyone has access to opportunities to grow. We will be intentional about promoting existing professional development events and will discuss additional ideas that we could implement. Be on the look out for more information coming out soon! If you have specific ideas, I hope you feel comfortable enough to share them."
"I was heart-broken to learn about your experience with a team member, who did not treat you with the amount of respect you deserve. I do not take it for granted how much courage it took to share this and intend to investigate this matter immediately. At our organization, we believe every team member is valuable and should be treated with respect - without exception. Please know that my door is always open for you and others who are experiencing challenges at work. If you feel comfortable sharing a bit more information (either here or in person), it would certainly help me address your concerns sooner rather than later, but I also recognize that it is a lot to ask of someone. Thank you for your openness and for bringing this issue to my attention. I am taking it very seriously."
"I am excited to hear that the new home office supplies that you received allow you to be more productive. Thank you for letting me know! In the future, I will continue to look for areas where small changes could make your everyday life at work more enjoyable and less stressful. Please keep the suggestions coming! Cheers!"
Is it sometimes difficult for you as a team leader to extract specific feedback from your team members' comments? Then it's certainly worth looking at our tips for impactful comments together. Maybe our rules of the game will also help you?