We all know the saying, “You can’t fix it if you don’t know it’s broken.”
Lack of knowledge, self-awareness, and personal bias create blind spots in our businesses and our lives, and blind spots are a recipe for disaster.
If you change lanes when someone is in your blind spot while driving…the outcome is not good. The same concept holds true for every area of your life.
I was personally reminded of this recently by some feedback I received from one of our A-players, and it’s proven to be an amazing gift.
First, let me clarify the topic of this post – we are talking about employee feedback that you, as the leader, receive from your team members -- feedback about you, your performance as a leader, about the company on the whole, and what they are seeing in the company (which is a reflection of you as the leader).
This stuff can be hard to hear, but it is that way because there is truth in it. These truths are truths you know deep down but aren’t dealing with.
How do you get honest feedback when the very people you are asking for feedback from potentially have something to lose by sharing the feedback (i.e. they may be afraid of losing their job or receiving different treatment as a result of sharing the feedback)?
This was a topic of discussion during a recent podcast discussion with Alexi Panos and I loved what she said. “If your team is afraid to give you honest feedback—and you’ll know based on their answers—that’s feedback.
That’s employee feedback that you are not in a space for honest and open communication. This alone could be the most effective feedback that you could possibly get.”
So, if you’re not able to get feedback from your employees, that’s a sign that you need to change something so that your employees feel comfortable opening up.
With that in mind, here are a few tips for setting the conversation up for success so you receive quality feedback from your employees.
Be clear about what you’re asking for and why
The team member needs to understand why they specifically are being asked for the feedback (i.e. you trust them, their expertise, and that you value what they have to say).
They also need to understand why the feedback is important and what you intend to do with the feedback.
Prepare and give THEM time to prepare
Give them the questions in writing in advance of the meeting and give them time to contemplate the questions. Make sure these questions are meaningful and open ended questions (i.e. what quality do you feel is getting in the way of me being an effective leader?).
Set a time for the discussion and have it in a place that feels comfortable for you both – maybe that’s over coffee or lunch; generally, the more comfortable someone feels, they more open they will be.
Shut up and listen and respond with “Thank you.”
You’ve asked this person to share this amazing gift of feedback with you, so let them talk and give them a voice.
Whether the feedback is good or bad, you must simply respond with a “thank you.” It’s okay to ask for some clarification, but do not defend yourself. Your desire to defend yourself often means there is truth there…examine that.
End the discussion with sincere gratitude for their candor and again, share what you intend to do with the feedback.
Now here’s where the rubber meets the road – you had BETTER do something with your employee feedback.
Great cultures are born from feedback shared by team members which of course results in increased retention rates, easier recruiting efforts, happier customers, and a better bottom line.
Now what leader doesn’t want that?