In the realm of effective leadership, one critical practice often stands out: seeking and embracing employee feedback. Leaders who actively solicit input from their team members create an environment of trust, open communication, and continuous improvement. This can make a powerful contribution to the success of individuals, teams, and organizations.
When leaders actively seek employee feedback, it demonstrates their commitment to valuing the perspectives and ideas of their team members. It creates a culture of engagement, where employees feel heard, valued, and empowered. This fosters a sense of ownership and commitment among team members, leading to increased motivation, productivity, and overall job satisfaction.
Every individual brings unique experiences, expertise, and viewpoints to the table. By seeking employee feedback, leaders tap into this diversity and gain valuable insights that can inform decision-making processes. Different perspectives offer fresh ideas, innovative solutions, and alternative approaches to challenges. Embracing diverse viewpoints fosters creativity, adaptability, and more robust problem-solving within the organization.
Identifying Strengths and Areas for Improvement
Employee feedback serves as a valuable source of information for leaders to identify both individual and organizational strengths and areas for improvement. It allows leaders to recognize and leverage the talents and skills of their team members effectively. Additionally, feedback helps pinpoint potential challenges, bottlenecks, or areas where further development or support is required, enabling leaders to take proactive measures for growth and success.
Effective communication and collaboration are vital for high-performing teams. Seeking employee feedback facilitates open channels of communication and encourages collaboration. It creates an environment where team members feel comfortable expressing their ideas, concerns, and suggestions. Leaders who actively listen to employee feedback demonstrate respect and build trust, paving the way for stronger working relationships and improved teamwork.
Boosting Employee Morale and Satisfaction
Leaders who actively seek employee feedback foster a culture of continuous improvement. By encouraging suggestions for process enhancement or innovation, leaders demonstrate a commitment to growth and development. Regular feedback cycles enable organizations to adapt to changing market dynamics, improve workflows, and remain agile in a rapidly evolving business landscape.
How Am I Doing?
One of the most important questions a leader can ask, but is not often (if ever) asked and rarely (if ever) answered authentically, is simply “how am I doing?”
Leaders don’t ask because:
- They’re afraid of the answer
- They think they already know the answer (“great” of course)
- They wouldn’t trust the answer (Why ask them? These people don’t get it.)
Even if the question is asked, subordinates often don’t give authentic answers because:
- They’re afraid it’s a test (are you with me or against me?)
- They don’t think it matters (will anything really change?)
- They’re not sure what great leadership is SUPPOSED to look like
Or they’ve gotten so used to their existing leadership and business culture that they can’t imagine something could/should be better.
Believe me I understand how intimidating this question can be. To ask it openly and to really WANT to hear an authentic answer is… well, it takes a strong ego to set one’s ego aside.
As a leader, if you do decide to ask this question, be sure to do it in a manner that elicits a comfortable dialogue with your subordinates. Which of course means that your dialogue with subordinates should always be candid and comfortable – if you have a pattern of being harsh, abrasive (or merely distant and somewhat aloof) don’t expect that suddenly shifting to being a kinder/gentler and more present version of yourself is going to make a difference. It may actually heighten paranoia (why is she suddenly being so nice and asking for my feedback, what the hell is going on, oh my God something must have happened…)
Once a year I send this email message below to each of my direct reports:
How am I doing? I want to hear your perspective on where I’m creating value for our team and for you individually, and where/how I can do better/more/different… we can discuss this during our next 1:1, but I wanted to give you some time to think about it. If you are more comfortable you can provide the feedback via email. I’m hoping for authenticity, not a platitude.
Some of my direct reports are more comfortable giving the feedback via email, some through conversation, and some do both. I take it all in (and believe me, they DO give me plenty of feedback, both positive and constructive). Then I encourage further open discussion, first individually, then eventually as a group. I have to be responsible for discerning the constructive feedback that is viable/relevant/actionable. And I eventually let my team know what adjustments I’ll be making, and ask them to hold me accountable.
When it comes time for me to GIVE feedback to my team, the process I’ve described above has created a foundation for authenticity, constructive dialogue and mutual accountability.
But it all begins with the scary question… “How am I doing?”
An Important Leadership Tool
Leaders who recognize the importance of employee feedback and actively seek it create a thriving workplace culture characterized by engagement, collaboration, and continuous improvement. By valuing diverse perspectives, identifying strengths and areas for improvement, enhancing communication, and fostering trust, leaders lay the foundation for success at both the individual and organizational levels. Embracing employee feedback is not just a good leadership practice; it is a powerful catalyst for growth, innovation, and achieving long-term success.