Need ideas for anonymous survey questions

 

Hello everyone,

In an effort to get some honest and real feedback from my team, my peers (other managers and people I work with but don't manage), and my superiors (directors, etc.); I am preparing to send out a SurveyMonkey to each group respectively.

What I am struggling with is what questions to ask.

I don't want the questions to be leading but I also don't want them to be too generic either.

The survey should be long enough to be worthwhile but not so long as to kill the response rate.

I am thinking 3 to 5 questions.

The only question I have so far is:

"What is your perception of me? E.g. When someone asks you what you think of me, what do you say?"

Thoughts?

Thanks in advance,

Jason Campbell

What do you want to know?

I'm not a huge fan of surveys, myself, because you rarely get the sort of in-depth information that's actually useful and actionable.  Talk to people face-to-face instead.  I'm a huge fan of periodic "catchups" (not "meetings") with people out of my chain of command.  They help me keep my finger on the pulse of what's going on, and I often get nuggets of information about how I can be more effective to them.

Perhaps you're literally unable to meet with these other people, though.  I can't imagine how that would be, but I don't have a good imagination.  So you've got to go with the survey.  In that case, I would just ask whatever it is that you really want to know.  If you can't put into words what questions you want answered, it is unlikely that the people responding are going to be able to put into words the answers to those questions.  Keep thinking about it and rolling the ideas around until you *can* put the ideas into words.  Then just ask those questions.  Keep it simple.  Don't overthink it.

You're wasting your time. If

You're wasting your time.

If you don't have enough of a relationship with these people to already know, they are not going to fill out some form to tell you.

Wasting time

Since I can't "like" the previous comment, Ill just echo the title.  It will be hard to craft questions and then present the survey in a way that gets you anything good.  It will be a piece of cake to look like a tool.  It will either look like your fishing for complements, or starved for attention, or upset with the results of your year end review, or looking for fuel for some other political reason.

What you need to do is get a third party consultant to call this leadership training, and make 360 feedback part of the program. 

And in an effort to be helpful, those surveys generally are not questions.  They are a list of attributes down the side with the agrees to strongly disagrees scale across the top.  Then you list things about yourself like, approachable, organized, funny, stern, consistent, nice eyes, etc.  And then you can look at the results and build an improvement plan from feedback in that format. 

And, don’t  do this, stop, no, don’t….

RC

All three prior posters have

All three prior posters have it right.  In my early days I made the mistake of sending out a survey before I had the relationships in place.  I didn't get a single response.  They saw it as a trap, and probably as a very obvious sign of my own insecurity as a new manager. 

The better approach with your directs is to get enough one on ones under your belt to where you have a good, solid, trusting relationship in place, and then when you ask for feedback, make it about them instead of about you, and do it in the third segment, which is about the future.  "What can I do to support you better?"  "Are there things about your job that don't make sense or are wasting your time?  Lets talk about how to tweak that." 

For your peers and your bosses, build those relationships too, just not in one on ones.  The periodic "check ins" that Matt Palmer mentioned are a good start. 

 

If you *do* decide to go down this route...

I would echo the feedback of others here, but if you decide you do still want to go down this route, here are a few things to keep in mind:

I've used 360 feedback several times in the past and have found it works best if you:

1. Have a concrete project or piece of work that you can references that they have worked on with you

2. Ask *very* specific questions, e.g. Based on the time that you sepnt working with me, is there anything about my methods of communicating that you felt could be improved? If so, please give an example

3. You might want to find some way to incentivize people to complete it; one way would be to receive the answers anonymously so people know that they won't be chased up on specific things you have said

4. Try and avoid generic responses or yes/no/rating out of ten questions; it's questions with free text answers that can really help.

I've written a guide about getting feedback; although it's primarily direcetd at businesses and customers, I think that there are some nuggets in there that you might find useful: 

http://paulmaplesden.hubpages.com/hub/How-Small-Businesses-Can-Get-Valua...

Good luck!

Paul.

RE: Need ideas for anonymous survey questions

 

Thanks for all the responses to my original post.

Honestly, I am surprised that no one thinks the surveys are a good idea.

The problem I have is at this company, feedback is not part of the culture. When I ask my directs for feedback, they act like they are afraid to say anything because they will be punished for being honest - there is a silent history of retaliation although I have never seen or even heard of such a thing in my 2+ years. Therefore, they say: "You're doing fine", "You're a good manager", etc. The same vaguely positive stuff that is pretty much worthless.

With peers and directors, it's more of the same: "You're doing fine", "You're doing good", etc. Nothing useful or actionable. The only decent piece of feedback I have gotten recently came from the CIO.

My hope was that by surveying the team and giving them the veil of anonymity, I might get some honest and actionable feedback. However, it sounds like the surveys are a bad idea.

Thanks,

- jason

What are you asking your directs, exactly?

If my boss asked me straight off the cuff, "Can you give me any feedback on how well I'm doing my job?", my response would probably be along the lines of the responses you're getting.  It's not something I spend lots of time thinking about, on the off chance my boss might ask me about it.  I expect you're probably doing something similar, and hence are getting similar results.

Instead, try asking *specific* questions.  The old standby is, "What is one thing I can do to make your job easier?"  Note that the question doesn't ask *IF* there is anything you can do.  It *assumes* there is something you can do -- a reasonable assumption, since nobody's perfect.  To make it easier on everyone, especially those who might need some time to come up with a suitably polite answer, you could let people know that in their one on ones next week you'll be asking them this question, and you'd really appreciate an honest, forthright answer.

Don't take smoke-and-mirrors for an answer, either.  If people are giving you the runaround, pin them down (nicely!).  If you're told, "I don't think there's anything you could do to make my job easier", call bullshit.  Say something like, "I know I'm not a perfect manager, and I find it hard to believe that I'm doing my job well enough that you can't think of any way I can make your job easier".  If they express any sort of fear, you could follow with, "I'm sensing that you're not comfortable discussing this sort of thing with me.  Am I reading things right?"  If they do admit to fear, thank them for being so honest with you, apologise for anything you might have done to lead them to that conclusion, and then leave off at that point.

Finally, always work on those relationships.  Regular one-on-ones to gradually make people aware that you're a human being and not a scary management automaton.

 

Another thing....

A survey of this type needs to be designed  by a professional. I sometimes build surveys for my internal customers whose only experience is the free version of a popular online survey tool. The problem there is that people don't know how to minimize their biases or craft questions in a way that provides the best responses and the easiest way to analyze the data. The free version's templates are too limited for your needs here, if that was what you planned to use.

A poorly built survey can result in ratty data returned at best. At worst, it could actually damage relationships.

You want a simple solution, I understand that. But as explained above, you're going to have to focus on building trust and relationships. That's the harder right versus the easier wrong. And, in this case, the "wrong" is "wrong" for multiple reasons.

Matt is right. In addition to what he suggests, or to help you get to that point, you might pose the question, "What do you need from me to be more successful in your role?" No, that's not soliciting feedback, but I actually think that question will give you a better ROI than one where you seek feedback. Or, you could use it as a way to start the conversation and, if it's appropriate, transition to a feedback question. You might consider asking the question once a quarter and perhaps the third time, ask for specific feedback. Your mileage may vary.

 

Glenn

MT says don't give feedback to your boss

Jason,

I suggest you listen to one of the podcasts that discusses giving feedback to your boss. MT people should be smart enough not to do so, as Mark has pointed out many times. And assuming that you'd never give feedback to your boss, why on earth would you expect your directs to give you feedback.  Even worse: You're demanding that they shoot themselves in the foot!

You get feedback from your bosses. You get feedback from your metrics. There you go.

The other suggestions given are helpful though: ask your directs what you can do for them to help. That's not feedback, that's "help me do my job".