When most people think about the role of managers they probably think about the need to give feedback and constructive criticism to the individuals that they are managing. The most effective leaders can do this in a way that increases employee morale, encourages individuals to perform at a higher level, and leads to higher retention rates.
However, feedback should really be a two-way street. As much as managers are giving feedback to the individuals that they manage they should be receiving feedback on their own management style as well as on the company as a whole. Ask yourself honestly: Are you actively soliciting feedback from your team?
Keep in mind that saying that you have an “open-door policy” is very different than truly being open to receiving feedback. It is also not good enough to just state this to your employees. Consider the fact there are natural power dynamics at play. Even if you have a very collaborative work environment, your employees are still likely to feel somewhat intimidated by management. Giving feedback especially if it is critical will probably feel inappropriate or unwelcome.
Leaders who regularly ask for feedback are largely rated as much more effective than those who do not. And this feedback should not just be coming from your Board of Directors, clients, or investors it needs to be coming from the ground up.
By not regularly asking for feedback, you are not only taking a risk but also missing a huge opportunity. You will be less likely to be aware of issues at play between colleagues which means that you will not be able to mitigate problems effectively or in a timely manner.
You may think that soliciting anonymous feedback is the best way to get honest opinions from your employees. However, you would be much better served by fostering a culture of communication. It is better to establish a pattern of open and respectful conversations regarding how your employees feel about their projects, colleagues, workload, etc.
Of course, this cannot happen all at once. It is something that needs to be engrained into your company culture. And it should start by first taking the time to get to know your employees on a personal level. This will help them to feel more comfortable sharing their true thoughts and opinions.
To facilitate this type of conversation, it helps to start in a neutral location. A casual environment will feel more like an equal playing field for all parties. No one will be sitting behind “the boss’s desk.”
How you receive this initial feedback is critical. If you are defensive or flippant, it may be a long time before you get another chance for real and honest discourse. More than likely, not everything you hear will always be favorable. You should be prepared to learn about your own shortcomings only by doing so will you be able to address them. While it may be uncomfortable, it is also necessary for your own professional development and will benefit all parties at the end of the day.