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From the Ground Up: Enhancing Leadership Through Employee Feedback

 June 12, 2024   By Living As A Leader

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In the dynamic landscape of modern workplaces, effective communication between managers and their employees is crucial. One key aspect of communication is feedback—both giving and receiving it. While providing feedback to employees is often emphasized, it is equally important for managers to gather and receive feedback from their people. 


Why Managers Should Gather and Receive Feedback

  1. Improve and Develop: According to VitalSmarts, 80 percent of employees say their boss has a significant weakness everyone knows and discusses openly with each other, but not directly with their manager. Feedback from employees provides managers with insights into their leadership style and effectiveness. By understanding how their actions and decisions are perceived, managers can identify areas for improvement and make necessary adjustments. 
  2. Enhance Employee Engagement: When employees feel that their opinions and perspectives are valued, their engagement and job satisfaction levels increase. Gathering feedback demonstrates that managers care about their team’s thoughts and are committed to creating a supportive work environment. This can lead to higher morale, reduced turnover, and increased productivity as employees are more likely to invest in their work and the organization. 
  3. Build Trust and Transparency: “I don’t want to listen to you; I just want to be seen as someone who will listen.” This situation is too common in the workplace. It sends a message to employees that their voices are worthless. When employees see that their feedback is taken seriously and acted upon, it fosters a culture of transparency and mutual respect. Trust is foundational for a positive workplace atmosphere where team members feel safe expressing their ideas and concerns. 
  4. Identify Blind Spots: In Margaret Heffernan’s book, Willful Blindness: Why We Ignore the Obvious at Our Peril, she defines willful blindness as “something we could know and should know but don’t know because it makes us feel better not to know.” No matter how experienced or self-aware a manager is, there will always be blind spots in their leadership. Direct reports, who interact with the manager on a daily basis, are in a unique position to identify these areas. Feedback from the team can bring these blind spots to light, allowing managers to address issues before they become larger problems.
  5. Stay Ahead of Competition: Employees frequently notice competitors doing things they wish their own organization were doing. To avoid sitting on a wealth of helpful ideas, leaders should ask employees for observations that have the potential to improve the business.

How Managers Can Gather and Receive Feedback

  1. Regular One-on-One Meetings: Scheduling regular one-on-one meetings with direct reports creates a dedicated time for feedback. These meetings should be structured but flexible, allowing employees to voice their thoughts in a comfortable setting. Managers should ask open-ended questions and actively listen to fully understand the feedback.
  2. Anonymous Surveys: Sometimes employees may feel hesitant to directly provide candid feedback. Anonymous surveys can be an effective way to gather honest opinions without the fear of repercussions. These surveys should be thoughtfully designed to cover various aspects of the manager’s performance and the overall work environment.
  3. 360-Degree Feedback: Implementing a 360-degree assessment involves collecting feedback from all levels within the organization. This comprehensive approach provides an all-inclusive view of a manager’s performance from multiple perspectives, offering a well-rounded understanding of their strengths and areas for improvement.
  4. Creating a Feedback Culture: The goal is to cultivate a culture where feedback is seen as a positive and essential component of the workplace. Managers should lead by example, openly soliciting feedback and demonstrating how they use it to improve. Encouraging a two-way feedback loop where both managers and employees are committed to growth fosters a thriving, collaborative environment. 
  5. Ask Specific Questions: If you want helpful feedback, ask specific questions. Below are sample manager-to-employee feedback questions:
  • Can you share something I do that bothers you?
  • What could I be doing to make your job easier or better?
  • If you were in my position, what’s one thing that you would do differently?
  • What’s one thing about my leadership style that I should work to improve?
  • What best practices do you have from past managers that could help here? 

All people need feedback, even leaders. Gathering and receiving feedback from employees drives continuous improvement, enhances employee engagement, builds trust, identifies blind spots, and contributes to a positive workplace culture. By implementing regular feedback loops, managers can ensure they are effectively leading their teams and fostering an environment of open communication and mutual respect.

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