Everyone, including the leaders in your organization, can benefit from some constructive feedback. But leaders often struggle with getting feedback from employees, who may feel it isn’t their place to “correct” their leader. But, no one is able to improve without knowing what things they should be working on. Here are six steps from a recent article in the Harvard Business Review to help your organization become more feedback-friendly.
Focus first on psychological safety
It is easy to see why some employee may be hesitant to provide constructive feedback to their leaders. It can feel (and even sometimes be) risky and potential damage important working relationships. If leaders want to really know what employees would like to see improved, they need to create an environment where feedback is encouraged and rewarded. Employees need to see their leaders being vulnerable, holding themselves accountable, and reacting positively to negative feedback.
Think about how you ask for feedback
Avoid vague questions like, “what could I be doing better?” Instead, think of specific examples and ask clear questions. For example, “How often to I interrupt people?” or “Do I come off as unapproachable?” Also ask individual employees in your one-on-one meetings, what you could be doing to make their jobs easier and more fulfilling. Sometimes this conversation will lead to some constructive feedback.
Be clear that you want to hear the good and the bad
It pays off to be very frank about the type of feedback you are looking for. Make sure employees know that you want to hear both the good and the bad. Positive feedback can help you see which behaviors beneficial so you can amplify them. Explain your reasons for asking for feedback and share some of the specific area you are working to improve. When someone provides vague feedback like, “Nice presentation!” ask follow-up questions such as “What did you like about it?”
Listen with the intent to understand
When someone provides you with feedback, listen to what they are saying. Do not allow yourself to be distracted by your phone or an email. Someone taking the time to come to you with feedback is valuable opportunity that shouldn’t be wasted. Avoid the urge to defend yourself (which is human nature) as it may prevent that employee and even others from coming forward with feedback in the future.
A positive reaction to constructive feedback is necessary when creating psychological safety and a culture that is rich with feedback conversations. No matter how you feel about the feedback, be grateful that the employee came forward and took a risk. Make sure to genuinely thank the employee.
Reflect and act.
Take time to think about the feedback. What you can learn from it? Make a plan for improvement, based on what you have learned. Share your plan and progress with those that have provided you with feedback. This demonstrates that not only do you want to hear the feedback, but you actually intend to do something with the information.
Taking these steps will help you create a work environment where employees and leaders are more comfortable sharing both positive and negative feedback.