Leadership: How to get honest feedback from your employees pt2

Keren Lerner concludes her piece about honest feedback.

Listening skills 

Switching off your own ideas and solutions to fully listen and compute what is being said, after which you can bring yourself back in to solve or respond to the feedback you have just been fed, is the key to good listening.

And if you’re a business owner your brain is so full of ideas and problems and things to do, that it’s challenging to take the time to really listen – but the value is immense. People want to be heard, and to feel understood and respected.

Trust has to be earned

As an employer/leader, you need to show people you are following through. If you have a meeting and act like things are going to change, and then get too busy to follow through, employees will quickly lose faith.

It may not be your fault because you’re doing a 101 things at any one time but this is a common factor. The main component one needs to have to get truthful feedback and for the employee feel like they have listened to is trust.

The employer needs to trust that the employee has the company’s best intentions and the employee needs to trust that even if the employer doesn’t agree with their ideas, it doesn’t make them invalid.

Don’t take it personally 

Yes, you own a business or you’re high up in a company. But that doesn’t mean it’s all about you. Thinking that when a member of staff is silent, they’re sulking. Or if they’re not enthusiastic, it’s because I have annoyed them.

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There needs to be a relationship of mutual respect of one another. Where both parties can detach themselves from the personal, so that when having a discussion about performances it is not a character assassination and in fact a ‘hot wash’ of an abstract product.

Make it cold and clinical 

If you want true honesty, you can always do an anonymous feedback sheet, where people fill out a document, print it out and put it into a box. Then a meeting is held and everyone has a chance to go through the list with ideas.

This means no finger pointing (though people love to speculate who said what) and things can be spoken about openly. Chances are, if one person has encountered an issue, the others in the team have something to say about it too.

Follow up meetings

The solution to issues doesn’t always present itself in the first meeting. You can start with the first meeting where feedback is discussed, and general ideas given out. Then there could be a time gap so that everyone has time to think over what has been said and the ideas that have been proposed.

Then once a couple of days have passed have a follow-up meeting where you can say what ideas and suggestions you are going to implement and why and then which you aren’t going to use. This then allows those whose ideas aren’t used to have a good understanding as to why and that they haven’t just been ignored.

Give feedback

Employees don’t just want to work in a void. If they have been working on something, they need to know if they were on the right track or how they can improve. Many leaders find it hard as they worry about insulting the employee if they want them to change things.

It’s definitely a skill to give actionable constructive feedback and it’s a language worth learning. Ensure you say thank you first and give some positive comments, and then say positive things like ‘just a few tweaks and then it’s ready’ or ‘Getting there! Can you make these changes and then we can review after’ so that the employee doesn’t feel the feedback is a criticism. 

Read part one of this feature here


About the author

Keren Lerner is the CEO and founder of Top Left Design, a London based design and marketing agency. 


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