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4 Ways to Get Honest, Critical Feedback from Your Employees

Much like telling people “I’m really funny,” is not a great way to make people think you are hilarious, telling them “I’m really self-aware,” is not going to convince anyone that you are actually self-aware. This is something that can only be demonstrated by the actions you take. In an article for Harvard Business Review, Ron Carucci suggests four more specific ways to solicit and absorb critical feedback from employees:

  1. Ask your coworkers to push back.
  2. Read nonverbal cues.
  3. Monitor how you narrate the story.
  4. Know your triggers and encourage others to call them out.

The Truth Doesn’t Have to Hurt

The most obvious way to get better and more critical feedback from employees is to be asking for it regularly. Encourage dissenting opinions during meetings, and if you never hear any, express how you find that worrying. And after meetings, ask some people how they think it went and if they would have done anything differently in your position. Carucci discourages you from relying too much on anonymous feedback, because anonymous notes do not garner as much spontaneous, worthwhile conversation.

Another thing you (and everyone else) should be doing is reading verbal cues. But Carucci gets more specific than that by noting effective examples he has seen in action. For instance, he cites a leader who asks questions like, “You suddenly seem to not want to look directly at me. I’m concerned something I’ve said isn’t sitting well. Can you help me understand if that’s true?”

The third tip—monitoring how you narrate the story—tries to measure if you are viewing a situation overly optimistically. Any time you have a voice in your head trying to casually justify why things feel a little off, you should challenge that voice. Maybe things feel a little off because things are a little off. Be honest enough with yourself to consider alternative, more uncomfortable versions of events.

Lastly, Carucci says that all people have “triggers” that cause emotional responses, and it is important to acknowledge their presence:

One leader I worked with became painfully verbose when he was anxious. During meetings where contentious issues were being discussed, he would launch into lengthy diatribes in an unconscious effort to calm his discomfort with conflict. One of the ways he worked to improve was to acknowledge to his team that he was aware he did it (which they greatly appreciated) and he asked them to simply hold up their hands when they felt he’d gone on too long. The first few times people raised their hands, he struggled to shut up. Someone on the team finally said, “If you want us to help you stop rambling, you have to agree to actually stop talking when we raise our hands.” He did. He eventually learned to be brief, by writing out concise statements he could employ as needed. Great leaders also apologize when they’ve behaved poorly, cleaning up any emotional messes they’ve left behind.

You can view the original article here: https://hbr.org/2017/11/4-ways-to-get-honest-critical-feedback-from-your-employees

About John Friscia

John Friscia is the Editor of Computer Aid’s Accelerating IT Success. He began working for Computer Aid, Inc. in 2013 and continues to provide graphic design support for AITS. He graduated summa cum laude from Shippensburg University with a B.A. in English.

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