How to Get Honest Feedback From Your Employees

By: First Union


How to Get Honest Feedback From Your Employees

It's your company, you are the boss. Therefore, it is incumbent upon you to gauge your employee's attitudes about your leadership, about the company as a whole, about their roles. But how do you do this? How do you get employees to open up to you and be honest about their feelings? You of course want to be sure that you are supporting your staff in the right way. You also need to ensure that they feel challenged and thus motivated to want to perform their job to the best of their abilities.

What it all comes down to is feedback. And not just check this box on some random survey feedback—but honest, thoughtful, and reflective feedback that can help you as a leader improve and grow. The exit interview of old is essentially useless to this end. You need to think more practically and realistically when it comes to gathering relevant and meaningful information from your team members.

Take an Interest

Keeping those lines of communication open is critical, first and foremost. But it is also about going beyond just being attentive and listening. You need to take an active interest in what your people are doing, how they are feeling in their respective jobs, and what they envision moving forward. This starts by asking questions, focused, and directed questions that will allow you to gain greater insights into what your employees are experiencing. For example:

  • How is the project progressing?
  • Are you experiencing specific challenges with it?
  • What about the positive aspects of the project thus far?
  • What support do you need to reach your objective?
  • What is preventing you from reaching the goal?

Hopefully, questions of this nature will allow you to see where you have to help the said employee and where you can give them the space they need to accomplish the task at hand.

Read Non-Verbal Cues

Simply put, as the boss you need to learn how to read the room. During a meeting, glance around at the various members of your team: are some averting their eyes? Do some look relatively downcast? Do any of them seem nervous or anxious? These are the kinds of cues that you need to pick up on and consequently address. First off, dig a bit deeper. And again, this comes back to meaningful dialogue. Ask the right questions at the right times.

It is best to approach a given person individually rather than pose such questions in front of their coworkers. Mention that you noticed they seemed tense or worried. And then be honest, express that you were looking for a different reaction, and so you are curious as to what might be on their mind. The employee is now aware that you noticed their frustration. Ideally, they will feel more comfortable about talking to you regarding their concerns. Even if you disagree with their thoughts on the subject, at least you have opened up the conversation and the back and forth which ensues can be immensely helpful in moving forward to a more productive plane.

Just Ask for Feedback

You may have to swallow some pride here, but if you truly want to know how you are doing as a leader, just ask. And if you've cultivated an open and honest company culture, then your employees should be willing to give you a comprehensive critique.

If you are a manager, you might first approach other managers and get their opinion regarding how you are doing as a leader. These conversations with colleagues can be hugely helpful as far as adjusting those elements of your managerial style that may not be as effective.

Additionally, if you have a trusted friend or confidante within the company, you can approach them. Perhaps also, that person has heard some feedback regarding your leadership. Of course, you don't want them to disclose a source, but simply hearing what others might be saying could help you make some changes if you deem such changes necessary.

Don't Get Defensiveness

Hand in hand with asking for feedback from colleagues and employees is your ability to handle that feedback. Many a manager has gotten defensive in light of criticism regarding their leadership style. If you've steadily been working to build trust and an open rapport with your team, a negative and/or defensive response can undo all the good you've done.

If you feel that somehow you are being attacked or impugned in any way, take a moment, breathe deep and think before shooting off a defensive reply. Keep in mind that everyone has an opinion, everyone has their insights and in this instance, they feel compelled to share their perspective with you. Take some time to really reflect on this feedback and then respond accordingly.

Admit Your Mistakes

To establish trust with employees, you need to be frank about your actions. That is to say if you make a mistake own it. Trying to hide it or pretending it never happened is only going to undermine the credibility you do have as a leader. Remember, leaders lead by example; if you want your staff to work on challenges they might have, you have to be willing to work on yours. And if the mistake requires an apology, be sure to apologize promptly. We are all human. Everyone is going to make mistakes now and then, even the boss. It's okay to own up to it.

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