How to GET Feedback When You Are the Leader
Without consistent feedback a manager operates blindly. When you are the manager, it can be down-right difficult to get candid critiques or compliments that are not coated with ulterior motives or filtered by fear. Your team does not want to tell you something that might put them on your “bad side”, so they choose to tell you that which is more likely to land them on your “good side”.
Getting honest-to-goodness feedback from reports is not as easy as one might think. Yet, here is the thing: it is pivotal to a leader’s success and development. Not only that, but it is also necessary for a team’s success and development. The better the manager becomes, the better the team becomes. Exceptional leaders live this out; they know that it is their job to request feedback.
Hearing the feedback
Most leaders wait to see if feedback comes their way; not only that, but typically, they hope it does not. If it does, it forces them to act or be accountable – in ways that they never really wanted. Controlling leaders do not want it and shut it down when it comes. One sales executive told me he had an open-door policy. Later that week, I noticed a sales manager go in his office. I overhead the executive yell: “Why are you interrupting me over this? If you cannot handle it, I will find someone who can.”
If you are wondering which camp you belong to, ask yourself now: What have I done in the last week to solicit feedback from my direct reports? Requesting feedback is ACTION-ORIENTATED. You must do something if you want to know what to do better. Are you worried that the report of your reports is not going to be all that remarkable? That is understandable.
The great news is that just by asking the questions and valuing the answers you are communicating a whole different kind of message to your team. You are becoming a better leader just by asking for their insights. Do you see how simple this is? This takes a lot of courage and humility, but it is leaps and bounds above any other feedback soliciting approach. ASK and LISTEN. Keep encouraging your team to tell you the truth. Keep honoring their honesty. Keep creating a space that protects people’s opinions. If you want to become the leader your team longs to follow you need to know what it would take for them to collaborate with you. Plus, you will gain new ideas and bolster your team’s commitment to excel.
Acting on the feedback
Here is an example: Dave is CEO of a business of about 250 employees. As a leader, he believes in people and their potential. He asks his employee team for formal feedback 2-3 times a year through individual departments meetings. Furthermore, he starts by explaining his vision and high expectations for their performance. He adds that all employees should expect the best from him, too. Then, he facilitates a session seeking ideas, and what they like or do not like about how he runs the business. He writes the comments on a flipchart, clarifies where needed and replies with thank you. He also schedules office hours for people to meet with him one on one or in small groups.
After a couple of weeks, Dave holds the department meetings again. This time he summarizes what he heard, entertains questions, and reviews what he will do or will not do and why. Dave’s business has employee turnover 5x below industry averages, a waiting list of people who want to work with him. He is also a leader in his market every year in sales, profit, and customer service. Robert Kiyosaki says, “Critics only make you stronger. You must look at what they are saying as feedback. Sometimes the feedback helps, and other times, it’s just noise that can be a distraction.”
Pulling It All Together
In reality, managers are always getting feedback in subtle ways from employees. The key is if they are paying attention to it. By asking for feedback regularly from others (co-workers and the boss, too), listening to it and acting on it, leaders are more apt to create a culture of trust. This type of feedback increases leadership effectiveness. It will also foster a team that is more committed to becoming better in an honest and open environment.
In conclusion, soon receiving and hearing feedback will feel as natural as a wind that blows on a warm summer afternoon. Remember these words by Ken Blanchard, “Feedback is the breakfast of champions.”
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