Leader: “I try to get feedback from my team but they just never give me anything useful”
Me: “Oh really? What have you tried?”
Leader: “I asked them a few times if they had any feedback for me, and they said no”
Me: “Well… we’ve found the problem.”
Giving feedback as a leader gets all the attention doesn’t it?
But of the leaders I’ve worked with over the years, the ones that seem to really excel at GETTING feedback, soliciting useful suggestions and ideas of how they can improve, how the team can improve and how the company can improve… well those leaders are just miles ahead in terms of how impactful they are able to be.
Getting the data out of your team on what is working for them, what’s not, and ideas they have for improvement will give you a huge win - everything from lower turnover and absenteeism to higher productivity, quality and sales, to a more positive and enjoyable working environment.
However, the problem with leaders saying ‘So, do you have any feedback for me?’ is twofold.
One, there is a power dynamic at play here, you can be the funnest most cool boss in the world… and you’re still the boss. That IS going to affect people’s comfort level having candid conversations with you, whether they even know it or not.
And two, when you give people an option to avoid the awkward conversation, they will take it.
Every. Single. Time.
So it’s not ‘Do you have any feedback for me?’. Instead, try on a few of these options to get some juicy useful data from your team.
1 - Give them a Quick and Easy Structure
Your team is busy! You’ve given them oodles to do, they aren’t just sitting around drafting up the perfect way to give you feedback on how your team meetings are super boring.
So take the guesswork out of it. Use a structure like ‘Stop, Start and Continue’ across the whole team (what should I Stop doing, Start doing and Continue doing?). Or have a google form that people enter in their feedback weekly or monthly. Or a questionnaire they fill in on a regular basis. Or set an expectation that everyone will share one piece of positive and one piece of constructive in your weekly morning meeting.
Try a structure, see what works and what doesn’t, modify it as you go. Get creative. Take the guesswork out and you’ll see a big jump in the amount of useful feedback and data you’re getting from the team.
2 - Model the Behaviour
Yep, once again demonstrating the behaviour you want to see from your team has made it onto a list about leadership.
This one really is key in soliciting useful data from your team on your performance. You have to show the team what giving timely useful feedback looks like. Giving them feedback on a regular basis - positive and critical - will set the expectation that providing feedback is just ‘the way we do things around here’.
There’s also nothing wrong with being totally up front and calling it out to your team. Saying you’re trying to increase the amount of feedback you’re receiving from the team for your own and the team’s development and one of the ways you’ll be doing this is by opening up the dialogue more and giving more feedback.
You don’t have to enact these changes in secret, the fun part about working with other grown ups is you get to just tell people what is going on!
3 - Facilitators and Focus Groups
If the culture within your team is truly resistant to a feedback approach, and you just can’t seem to get any feedback or suggestions out of your team members, perhaps have an objective person try.
Get a consultant or HR team member to run ‘Stay Interviews’, where they’ll use a structured interview guide to find out what’s going WELL with the way you run your team and areas for improvement. Or have them run focus groups to figure out what feedback there is on what’s working and what’s not. Or even an anonymous survey is better than no data!
4 - Listen and Incorporate. Every Time
Here’s the thing we have to remember about feedback… it’s ALWAYS about the person GIVING the feedback, not actually about the recipient.
Stay with me here and think about this. When you give feedback to a team member, it’s not truly about THEM, it’s about YOUR expectations of a team member (still with me?).
So this isn’t about taking it personally and if they say your meetings are boring, internalizing it be you ARE boring… this is simply saying there is a mismatch between their expectations of meetings and what is currently being delivered.
This is your permission slip to thank anyone who gives you feedback, take it as useful data and make sure you’ve thought about it and processed it. And it doesn’t even necessarily mean you need to change your behaviour - you need to definitely consider the risks of not changing your behaviour, because there are many, but it’s about taking the data, understanding it, and making an informed choice about what to do next.
Hearing feedback can be tough on the ego. It’s pretty tempting, especially when you’re the boss, to just avoid the discomfort of hearing tough messages and just keep on carrying on.
The risk is that you are missing out on a huge chunk of data and suggestions for improvement!
Hit comment and let me know what you’re going to try with your team!