Getting Feedback for Leaders Part 4: Reaching Out

Getting Feedback for Leaders Part 4: Reaching Out

As was said earlier in this series, it can be hard for managers to get candid and honest feedback.  The bigger your title, the less of a chance people will volunteer feedback to you, especially tough feedback.

Great leaders set the stage early with the people they work with–their boss, peers and direct reports– so they can get a constant flow of feedback.  Hopefully your boss is giving you balanced, candid, and timely feedback.  But with your peers and direct reports you have to take the initiative.  Develop an agreement early with the folks that you work with that you are open and want, or actually require, their feedback and that they will never hurt themselves if the feedback is given in the spirit of helping and in a timely manner.  Make this clear over and over until they get the point.  Generally people will test the water with a few lighter items until they can feel comfortable with coming to you on the harder things.

But if you ever overreact, get angry or deflect, just know that you just closed off the feedback faucet.

Periodically a manager should ask each direct report: “What can I do better to support your success?’ or “What do you need from me to be more effective?”  And when you do this, please do so in a neutral area like a conference room or even at the lunch table.  Do not do this behind your desk as the desk can create a barrier to an open conversation. Be insistent on these questions and do not settle for milk-toast responses.  Get the good stuff!

It is amazing to me how many managers think that asking these questions will show weakness or incompetence.  This is simply not true. You are successful when they are successful, so by giving them what they need to be effective increases their chance of success. This is what leaders are supposed to do. And if they do not come through you can feel good about doing your part in setting them up to win.

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