Ah that dreaded little sentence… ‘Hey, can I give you some feedback on that?’
Stomach drops, palms sweat. And yes we all say things like ‘I love feedback’ and ‘feedback is such a gift’... but deep down we all get that ‘oh shit’ feeling when we hear that sentence. EVEN when you’re the boss you still get it… which seems extra crappy, you’re in charge and you STILL don’t get to escape the ‘oh shit’ feeling!
Here’s a little known secret that as a Boss you really need to know: feedback is NEVER about the person. Yep, even when you give that well meaning constructive criticism to your team member… that’s not about them. It’s about you. It’s about YOUR views and beliefs and expectations.
Does that mean it’s useless and we should just ignore it?? HELL NO!! Just because it’s not about YOU doesn’t mean it’s not incredibly useful data and information… but it does mean you can relax and not feel so emotional about getting (and giving) feedback.
Here’s the deal, feedback simply gives you a view into someone else’s perception. No more, no less. And perception is NOT reality… but it sure as hell is what people use to make decisions.
So you need to have an inside view into what your team thinks about you. Not because it’s ABOUT YOU, but because it will be what they base THEIR decisions on - how motivated they feel, how loyal they’re likely to be, whether they’re happy to continue working for you or desperate to find the next job! And let’s be honest, you hired a team for a reason - to grow your biz, increase your audience, free yourself up to focus on your own zone of genius - so the last thing you need is a demotivated team who are looking to escape.
I know, I hear you thinking ‘well I ask them for feedback all the time and they just say everything's good’. Yep, that’s called Power Dynamics at work my friend. Even if you’re the most amazing boss in the world there is STILL a power differential between you two and that makes it uncomfortable (at best) for them to be honest with you about your Boss performance.
Here’s a few ways to peak behind the curtain and see what they really think about having you as their Boss:
1. Stop - Start - Continue
Often saying ‘can I have some feedback’ will result in crickets. Give your team member a structure which makes it much easier to come up with points for you. The benefit of this specific structure makes it feel much less personal and focuses on behaviour so can create a lot of comfort in being honest.
- Stop - What is one thing I should STOP doing because it’s not adding any value?
- Start - What is one thing I don’t currently do that I could START doing?
- Continue - What is one thing I’m currently doing that is working out really well that I should CONTINUE doing?
2. One Suggestion
At a team meeting ask the whole team (even if it’s a team of 1!) to come prepared with 1 suggestion that they have on how to do things better. Although this isn’t direct feedback for you, it will give you an idea of how things are going in general and where people’s pain points are, which you can then take and use when reflecting on what you want to do differently as a Boss.
3. 360 Feedback
An oldie but a goodie! Set up an online form and ask everyone to go in and put some feedback on your performance as their boss. You can make it anonymous if that will help create more comfort but if possible try to have people own their advice and thoughts for you. And no need to over complicate this, you can even use something as simple as a google forms document to gather the feedback
4. Hire a Consultant or Coach
If you don’t already have a Coach or Consultant that supports you on the people side of things, you can find one who can help you regularly with your own development. Not only can they say things to you that your own team can’t because it’s a different power dynamic, they can also interview your team to get some juicy tidbits of where your top development opportunities lie.
Remember boss, professional development ain’t just for your team! Walk the walk and make sure you have your own goals you’re working towards. And HUGE bonus points if you actually share with your team what you’re working on and how they can support you!
As always, get in touch with any comments or questions!