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Leadership Feedback: Part II - 8 Ways to Get Feedback

Yesterday, I wrote a piece about leadership feedback, which ended up offering some high-level advice to leaders. Today, I’d like to drill down on some practical ways to receive feedback from the organization. I’d like to reiterate that for senior leaders, it is important to avoid getting involved in every issue that comes your way. Use it as an opportunity to educate others about how to utilize their own empowerment.

That said, as a senior leader, you should be listening out for impacts to the organization’s mission, vision, and values. Those are your domain. The following list of ways to get feedback could be used as a list of options, but I would encourage you to try to do them ALL!

Feedback opportunities are not just a chance for you to hear what’s going on in your organization, they are also a great way to communicate the mission, vision, and values back to individuals within the organization. I cannot emphasize enough (although I am trying) that you cannot over communicate these things. New people are always coming into the organization and the people who have been there need to be continually reminded that you still mean it.

Let’s break it down. While I’m sure there are other creative ways to get feedback, these are the methods I have seen used successfully.

  1. Town Hall style discussions

  2. Anonymous suggestion box

  3. One-on-one meetings with no special agenda (other than listening)

  4. Employee surveys

  5. Cross-team retrospectives

  6. Incident reviews

  7. 360 degree performance assessments

  8. Wandering around

A special note about employee surveys. Getting honest feedback when there’s a chance you can figure out who said what will be difficult. There are two ways to overcome this. First, enter into a contest like Inc. magazine’s best places to work. You will get feedback, but the Inc. folks will scrub it to protect individuals. The second way is to hire an outside firm. They will perform a similar function as the Inc. staff.

How you receive feedback is critical to its value potential. Using good active listening skills are essential. Approach it with an open mind from a position of curiosity. Ask probing questions to get clarification and more details. Don’t offer solutions. If the person giving you the feedback is expecting “answers,” unless they are asking about something factual or “given,” tell them that you will think about it and get back to them. This does two things for you: 1) it gives you just that -- time to think about it (usually a good idea), and 2) it gives you an opportunity to follow up with that individual. When a leader makes good on their commitment to follow up, it demonstrates several good things like:

  1. You care about them

  2. Their concerns are worthy of your time

  3. You can be counted on to keep your word

All of these things build trust. I have written about trust before. There is no substitute and leaders can never have enough. It’s hard to get and easy to lose. Properly responding to feedback is the proverbial low-hanging fruit of trust-building.

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