As early as possible in your organization you need to establish a culture of feedback. The longer you wait, the harder it will get. This will look different in different organizations.
You need to figure out and initiate the culture of feedback that is most effective and God glorifying for your context. The worst person to be leading an organization is a person who is insecure. Yes, we’re all insecure to differing degrees, but there’s a type of leader who is deeply insecure and avoids all feedback in order to not be hurt, threatened, our found out. That is sin. That is pride. And that is incredibly dangerous for the leader and for the people being led. Insecure pastors are a dime a dozen and the only thing that can change this is team leadership/feedback and the deep feedback of the gospel.
The healthiest leadership is team leadership. And if you believe, as I do, that a team needs a lead guy to lead the team, you must put a strong team around you. The stronger you are as a leader, the stronger the team you need around you. I’m strong and stubborn, so I’m thankful to have a bunch of strong people surrounding me, loving me, and challenging me. (Note: Leader, it sounds like a paradox, but you must also follow Spurgeon’s counsel: “A minister ought to have one blind eye and one deaf ear.” You must ignore certain feedback that is harmful, not helpful. Turn a deaf ear to it.)
What a powerful testimony to the value we leaders should place on receiving both positive and negative constructive feedback. Many of us cringe at the thought of negative feedback because we are more accustomed to being criticized for our poor performance or we find out about the shortcoming long after the event has passed. As these two stories illustrate, when feedback is timely and delivered in a way that shows the person you care about them, it is likely to be appreciated and result in behavioral changes. If our feedback features vague accusations or is delivered in an accusatory tone the impact will be quite different.
Leaders can create a culture where feedback is encouraged by modeling good practices and graciously receiving the comments of employees, customers, and vendors. While it may be difficult to hear about our shortcomings or failure to keep promises, by embracing feedback we gain new opportunities for personal growth, improve our organization’s products and services, and deepen the trust that is necessary for workplaces and marketplaces to thrive. So the next time you are faced with some “slaw” that doesn’t seem right, ask the cook about it. If you’re the cook, give an honest answer and fix the problem if necessary. Leaders need both of these ingredients to get the recipe right.
People are hesitant to give feedback to authority figures. As a manager, I made a habit of asking people who reported to me, during weekly one-on-one meetings, if they had anything they wanted me to think about, regarding my work, my behavior, or my performance. It was rare that they’d say anything, although I knew this wasn’t because I was a perfect manager (there are no perfect managers). I found the only solution was trust and time. I had to be persistent in creating the confidence they would need to feel comfortable critiquing my behavior—without them worrying about me becoming defensive or reprimanding them for their comments. Eventually they’d offer a small criticism, and if I handled it well, they’d offer more next time.
When you think about it, you need your employees more than they need you. Your success relies on your employees doing the work. The more you are aware of their issues, the better you can address them. To get feedback, you must ask for it, be open to it, and respond effectively when employees candidly express their real feelings about their work environment and about you.
Express to employees your interest in getting feedback by asking five basics questions:
– What do I do that you like?
– What do I do that you dislike?
– What do I do that helps you?
– What do I do that hinders you?
– If this place were what it ought to be, what would be different?
– Don’t expect them to be comfortable answering all of these questions. Explain your reason for asking. By understanding their issues, you can better meet their needs and make a better working environment.
Because you may be the first boss they ever had who really wanted to hear what they had to say, expect them to be reluctant at first. For some employees, it may take several months to develop their trust and get the real dialog going.
Success in receiving feedback is derived from:
– Viewing the feedback as a valuable development opportunity
– Recognizing that the feedback is the “truth” for those who provided it
– Focusing on behaviors you can change and skills you can develop to address any issues
– Protecting and honoring the anonymity of the feedback
– Reflecting on what you can learn from the feedback
– Following up with those who provided feedback to thank them and ask any clarifying questions
– Taking action on specific development areas on which you will focus
Getting Employee Feedback
Every method of gathering employee feedback depends on what challenges you need to address as a business. Consider: Is your employee base growing or downsizing? Are you preparing for a merger or staying level? Professionals in the industry of employee research say offering general feedback opportunities are important — open-office policies or meeting with managers — but specific targeting of issues can help guide your company through difficult times. Common questions managers seek input on include: how engaged are my employees? How satisfied are they working for the company? What is the communication like with management? Do they have the right tools to do the job? How secure do they feel in the job?
You can also use a survey to find out the demographics of your work force, such as age and gender, and to look for reasons for high turnover. “You don’t do business without employees,” says Howard Deutsch, CEO of Quantisoft, a survey and consulting company based in Monroe Township, New Jersey. “Those who are highly engaged or motivated will be better at their job.” Gerry McDonough, CEO of LeadFirst, a Charlotte, North Carolina-based partner of data collection firm WorldAPP, that provides survey design and employee engagement consulting, says asking about the culture of the organization is important. The culture is “upstream” of issues like employee satisfaction and engagement, meaning the answers workers give about their coworkers and the general office environment often directly affect their job satisfaction.
Conducting Employee Surveys
Conducting a full-scale employee survey is still the most recommended method for gaining actionable employee feedback. Professionals recommend doing surveys on a regular basis, but say you shouldn’t do it any more often than once a year because employees could lose interest if pressed for feedback too often.
Although it’s recommended to tailor the specific questions to your company’s current issues, though a common thred that most surveys seek to discover is how connected the employee feels to the company. Most surveys will inquire as to the whether the employee has a good work-life balance, whether they are proud to work for the organization and how much effort they put into their work. Questions can also be tailored to find out how long the employee plans to stay with the company or what their feelings are about health and safety issues.
Practice Active Listening
Be seen as open to discussing any issue. Be careful of becoming defensive when potentially negative issues surface. Using active listening techniques is a must. Nod, restate, and paraphrase their statements in a calm and neutral tone to encourage communication. Look at them, but don’t glare at them. Ask questions to clarify issues and keep the discussion conversational. Avoid showing signs of anger, becoming upset, or trying to defend yourself. Remember, it is you who will ultimately decide whether or not to use the information they are delivering. Also, remember that even though they may not like to admit it, employees understand that you may not be able to eliminate all frustrations in the workplace, but at least you will listen. They will feel better having been allowed to vent their feelings.
But once I had established a feedback loop with them, I learned that their perspective was much more useful toward me becoming a better manager than the feedback I received from my own boss. I certainly didn’t have this kind of relationship with everyone, but most people, sooner or later, answered my questions with useful feedback. A suggestion for running a meeting differently, a question about a decision I’d made, or any other comment guaranteed that the ensuing discussion helped us both to feel better about whatever the thing was. Every time I was in a discussion, I tried to expose the difference between criticizing an idea and criticizing the person who came up with the idea.
Granted and earned authority don’t help if people just sit quietly on their asses while bad things are happening. There are few better uses of power than to interrupt stupid arguments and to take the floor away from people who abuse it. When differences of opinion slide into ad hominem attacks, or the use of bogus arguments to justify decisions, someone has to interrupt and raise the bar. By not tolerating that behavior, everyone gets the same message at the same time: don’t try that kind of cop-out again because we don’t accept it here.
Thank For Feedback
Even when you do not agree with everything they say, let them know you appreciate their openness. When you think about it, this person has just helped you out. You now know more about what’s going on with your people. You now have an opportunity to clarify issues and misunderstandings and make positive changes. You are also ensuring you will continue to get information the information you need to manage effectively.
Giving and getting feedback is essential to any manager’s success. Applying these rules will help you keep the dialog flowing giving everyone the information they need to grow – including yourself. Of course, it follows through the golden rule that the true leader needs to prepare herself for the possibility (or perhaps inevitability) that others will challenge her own bogus arguments, if she should try to use them. The best leaders are the ones who take pleasure in the team being so committed to its intellectual standards that it’s not afraid to question even the leader’s behavior.
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