It is exceedingly important to build an environment conducive to allowing team members to communicate with each other as well as with you, their manager. This is particularly important as it pertains to feedback.
In fact, according to Gallup, managers who receive feedback on their strengths and weaknesses show an 8.9% increase in profitability, while teams with managers that gave feedback report a 12.5% increase in profitability.
Feedback can truly add to the workplace. But while it is often a stated responsibility for a manager to give critical feedback, it is often difficult to encourage your direct reports to give feedback as well. This is a concept known as 360-degree feedback or two-way feedback. And you can alleviate this problem in a few ways.
Creating an environment in which Feedback is appreciated
Whenever you inherit or create a team, you should have a good 1:1 with any member of staff. This should help you not only inspire your team and show them your mindset but also allow you to set an environment in advance. While in this meeting, you should not hesitate to explain how you value both giving and receiving feedback, but also explain why you value this so much. The key is creating a culture where people feel enough psychological safety to give feedback – not a passive-aggressive culture that says the right words but doesn’t deliver psychological safety.
In addition to this, you should also model certain behaviors through your own work to help demonstrate your passion for this. Try doing some of the following:
1) Show interest in what your direct reports are doing- keeping a common image of you caring for their interests will help foster this environment where they don’t feel uncomfortable with conversations with you.
2) Accept your mistakes and acknowledge them- most people will feel more comfortable with telling someone if they’ve made a mistake if this person frequently acknowledges their errors. Own up to your mistakes!
3) Recognize the power dynamic- To your direct reports, you rank higher than them. There is an inherent power difference here, and it is natural for them to be nervous about calling you out.
4) Read Implicit Language- Before asking for feedback, it is important to figure out the ideal time and appropriateness of asking for feedback. Sometimes, when an employee is particularly stressed, they may not be able to give the most effective feedback.
5) Take Immediate Action- If you are getting feedback from your direct reports and proceeding to not act on it, do you really think that they will be giving you any more feedback in the future? Taking action on feedback signifies your dedication to your direct reports, as well as how much respect you have for them. Not acting on it would show that you either don’t care or don’t respect their feedback. Don’t be that person.
How to Receive Feedback as a Manager
Ironically, the same way that your employees should receive feedback is the exact same way that you should receive feedback. This is a process of grace and dignity. Here are some concepts to keep in mind while accepting feedback.
1) Be an Active Listener- Being an active listener means asking for details, presenting interested body language, and being polite. Leaning in, using facial language, and using hand gestures are all good examples of body language. It is important to let the other person speak, and not try to stifle them though.
2) Cross-Check Feedback- The more people that are saying a specific topic, the higher chance that this topic holds true. For example, if most of your direct reports are noting that you have trouble issuing deadlines, then this is probably a very discerning feature of yours. If a topic is mentioned by one direct report, it still is worth looking into, but the more frequent a topic is, the higher priority it should be.
3) Be Polite- This should go without saying, but at any point, if you feel that you are getting emotional, adjourn the meeting or discussion in favor of a later date. It is not a good idea to have emotions while in this discussion.
4) Ask for Examples- Anecdotes and specific examples can be very handy for the effectiveness of feedback. If an employee says that you have trouble delegating duties, it may be hard to understand how. But imagine if you received this feedback: “During the period of time that we were working with company A, you had a lot of tasks on your plate while we were unused, and you were frequently irritable.” That says a thousand times more than the former feedback.
5) Be Aware of What you Say or Do- The actions that you take while and after receiving feedback can dictate your entire reputation in the office. If you overreact in front of one of your direct reports, imagine how the rest of them will feel about giving you feedback.
Using Services to Garner Feedback
HRIS systems can often be your best friend in terms of getting feedback from your direct reports. Many of them can automatically prompt direct reports to submit their own feedback.
Ambition In Motion also offers a service known as AIM Insights, which can assist you with communication between you and your direct reports. Each month, a survey is sent out to your direct reports to fill out. The most important questions on this survey pertain to performance, task completion, and rigor over a period of time. These allow you to get candid feedback and then see how your direct reports feel about their tasks.
In addition to that, AIM Insights’ Executive Coaches will give further evaluation and feedback to you and your fellow managers. Feedback between you and your direct reports can also be anonymous, allowing your employees to feel safer expressing their opinions.
Sometimes, it’s not only scary to receive feedback or criticism but equally scary to give it. Understand the position that your employees are in, because at the end of the day, it is their company just as much as it is yours. You might organize them, but their day-to-day work will define the company. Let them make it a better place for themselves, as well as you and your fellow managers. Be empathetic, welcoming, and an active listener, and you will turn out just fine.