Soliciting feedback from our employees can be incredibly beneficial, but only if done right.  Many of us attempt it, but not necessarily in a proper way.  We may ask for it, but don’t follow up, or don’t react properly.  Leadership roles get watched much more closely than non-leadership roles, which is exactly why we should not only listen to feedback, but reach out for it.  Being able to accept feedback, and have those tough conversations will make you more emotionally intelligent and benefit you and your staff members down the road.

Without intending it, we sometimes put off the message that we aren’t open to feedback.  It is easy to become defensive and argue for ourselves.  It is difficult to simply listen to someones feedback without interjecting.  We all sometimes feel like we can’t ask a question, because we think that it makes us look unintelligent.  We have to remember it is okay to be a learner.  You don’t always have to be the smartest person in the room.  It is okay to turn into a sponge, and soak up someone else’s knowledge.

We have a tendency to assume feedback means bad.  Many times we close ourselves off to others and engage our defenses when others suggest improvements, but this is counterintuitive to a smart workplace.  Understanding how others see your work performance can be extrememely beneficial.

There are a few things you can do to solicit feedback for your employees in a better way.  First consider asking these questions.

  • What can I start doing to be more effective for you?
  • What can I stop doing to be more effective for you?
  • What can I keep doing to be more effective for you?

These questions shouldn’t necessarily all be asked in the same meeting, and each one may need to be approached multiple times. Your employee needs time to think about the answers.  This leads to the next tip.

  • Ask Often – No one wants to tell their boss everything when they are asked for feedback.  A trust needs to be built with the employee.  If you ask often, and the employee learns that you really care about the feedback, and they aren’t punished for being honest, they will open up.
  • Ask one on one. No group meetings.
  • Respond Short – Your response is the most important and most difficult part of asking for feedback.  They may tell you something you don’t like, you don’t agree with, or don’t understand.  The only things you should say after soliciting feedback is “Thank you” or “help me understand” to get a explanation and then say “Thank you.”  This isn’t a time to excuse or justify.  If you try you will close that door of communication, and they will never open up again, or will at least be cautious.

Feedback can be incredibly useful, but you have to know what to listen for, and you can’t take it personally.  You may hear 10 or 20 things about yourself people don’t like, but you can’t fix everything.  Listen for the common themes and focus on them.  Remember to solicit feedback later after making positive changes to see what they say.