• By : Carey Kurten (Mila) & Josh Hayman (Legitimate Leadership) – BKCOB ERF Committee Organisational Development Portfolio
Want to know how you’re doing as a leader? The best judges are the very people who depend on you for leadership. 360 surveys and engagement surveys serve this purpose to a degree, and provide some anonymity to facilitate honest feedback.
When discussing these instruments with business leaders, I ask how often they personally ask their people for feedback. Mostly, the answer is not at all.
This is a missed opportunity. Leaders earn trust when their people perceive them as genuinely concerned about their well-being. Few things demonstrate this more than a leader genuinely interested in the impact that their words and deeds have on their people.
Leaders often think they won’t get the truth if they do this. The answer will be “everything is fine”, no point in asking unless we use an anonymous process.
When a leader can ask his/her people for feedback, and they absolutely know with conviction that they get the straight-between-the-eyes truth – this is genuine evidence of a relationship of real trust. This only happens when the only consequence for giving the leader honest feedback is a better leader, and people only learn this over time.
If a leader wants to get honest feedback they have to start asking for it regularly and showing they’re prepared to do something about it. Building trust through asking for leadership feedback requires more than just asking the question.
The reason you’re asking for feedback is to give your team better leadership, not to feel good about yourself. The only consequence of giving you feedback should be a change in leadership behaviour. Be prepared to stick to this principle.
When asking for a dealing with feedback, the following guidelines can be helpful:
1. Have a theme. Ask each person questions around the same theme, for example: Are our one-on-ones focusing on the right things / Do you find team meetings help you to do your job better / what are the things you need to do your job that you are not getting from me? Directive questions are far more likely to solicit useful feedback than the open-ended, “how am I doing” question.
2. Regardless of the feedback, thank the person for the feedback, say you will think about what they’ve said and decide how to proceed.
3. Demonstrate willingness to action this feedback:
a. Decide what you are going to change
b. Communicate this to your people, and that you will ask for feedback on how it is working
c. Implement it
d. Ask for feedback again, and repeat step 2 and 3.
4. If you decide not to change something or act on feedback given, make it clear as to why you will not change it. Above all, take responsibility for these decisions. Do not say you can’t change something because your manager/the company/HR won’t allow it. You always have a choice.
Accept that you will not get the truth initially. Persevere. One manager I coached in 2016 said she spent six months asking for feedback and doing something about it before she really started to get the truth.
Being consistent in this builds integrity and demonstrates that you are prepared to put other’s interests ahead of your own.