Leadership

Eight ways to get honest feedback

This is a challenging time for organizations of all sizes. Today, more than ever, says executive coach John M. McKee, leaders need to get more face time with those who know what's going on. Here are eight ideas you can put into place immediately.

Today, perhaps more than ever before, leaders need to get closer to the "real world." By that I mean they need to become better at understanding what their clients feel and what their employees think.

In demanding times it's particularly important that leaders get honest feedback and consider all options and opinions. But at the same time, because they are busier than usual because of demands, leaders usually spend less time keeping in touch with their team or their clients.

Here are some field-tested ideas I've seen used successfully by others. Add a few of these to your own management toolbox and become more successful:

1. Set up communication hotlines -- These can be emails, phones, and paper tools. However you do it, put something into place that allows people to provide candid, honest feedback or ask questions, without having to identify themselves or fear getting busted.

2. Use public communication tools -- If you have a newsletter, use it to keep folks aware of what's going on and deal with rumors, which are harmful. Publish Q & As.

3. Hand out anonymous surveys -- These are great tools for getting your fingers on the pulse of the organization. But don't overthink them. They should be done fairly quickly and fairly frequently. Also, have the guts to make the results public afterward. That shows the employee base that you're aware of their concerns. If you can't provide a fix, at least let them know that you care about the problem and will try to deal with it when you can.

4. Have lunch with a group of employees -- Periodically, have a lunch meeting with folks from all levels attending. Make it clear that there will be time at the end of it for a question-and-answer session if the group is more than 12 individuals. If the group is small, make a point to sit beside the quiet one(s) and encourage them to open up.

5. Visit client offices or locations -- The best way to open up communication is to show that you're accessible and interested. I don't care how often someone says they care about what's going on in other locations, if they're never there they won't hear enough.

6. Get your own devil's advocate -- People figure out pretty quickly if the leader only wants to hear what he wants to hear. If you show that you appreciate a healthy debate, you're more likely to get differing ideas thrown about.

7. Show another side of yourself -- One of the founding senior execs at DIRECTV was famous for showing up in cube environments and throwing Nerf footballs with anyone at work after 6pm or on weekends. It was a kind of a "jock" thing, but even those less-than-jock types could throw the little soft football around. It provided a bit of bonding conversation and built trust between the leader and the team.

8. Walk around with your hands in your pockets -- If you're serious about wanting to encourage honest feedback and candid comments, expose yourself to your clients and team members more often. Wander the halls, dropping in on your folks; spend time on email just "checking in" with your clients. You are going to hear things that, otherwise, you may not have come across.

People who really want to know what's going on in their organizations do these things. Those who don't probably don't really want to know, despite what they say.

<!--[if !supportEmptyParas]--> John

Leadership Coach

About

John M. McKee is the founder and CEO of BusinessSuccessCoach.net, an international consulting and coaching practice with subscribers in 43 countries. One of the founding senior executives of DIRECTV, his hands-on experience includes leading billion d...

7 comments
dtrnelson
dtrnelson

...by extorting the identities of the soreheads from your sysadmins and purging the company of their ilk. Clearly, the only ones left will be the contented--AND grateful--employees.

Laurie Bennie
Laurie Bennie

Do you have a IT PMO in your company? If so does it add value or is it more of a hindrance and administration nightmare?

cd003284
cd003284

It's all just talk until someone criticizes management; then you find out if anyone really wants feedback, and really intends to do anything with it. The first time you see a mid- or upper level manager held accountable for his or her actions re: subordinates, you know you've entered a new era, but it rarely happens. Essential organizational pathologies run top>down, not bottom>up, and it requires a genuinely mature and psychologically healthy manager to utilize critical feedback. Most systems won't tolerate criticism of managment by subordinates, no matter what they say, and more important the crit, the more likely the punishment.

albayaaabc
albayaaabc

if youn are man talking with men about some thing you bought with them like trouser and their brand name so on.

jkim202
jkim202

I agree with Charles; lunch is a great way to get to bond with employees. Opinions might not come out immediately, but through such bonding, employees learn to have trust and feel more comfortable giving useful praise and criticisms. PS: You might want to proofread your post. It's "public communications," not "pubic communications."

mr.practical
mr.practical

"2. Pubic communication tools"...I think such, um, tools are useful in creating a happy marriage, but I don't think they belong at work. ;-)

Charles Bundy
Charles Bundy

Is one of my favorite work bonding activities! Next to breakfast... and afternoon snacks... and holidays when folks start bringing in goodies like honeybun cake ...

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