A Manager's Guide on Receiving Feedback from Your Team

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Any manager worth their salt knows that they need to seek feedback to manage team members effectively. However, as one rises in seniority, receiving constructive and honest feedback from your team starts diminishing. Why? Because no one wants to offend the boss. 


Without honest and open feedback from your team, your development will suffer. The inability of your team to share honest feedback due to a fear of reprisal will lead to employee dissatisfaction and, eventually, a high churn rate. It will also negatively impact the company's productivity. 


So how does a good manager break this vicious cycle? Let's look at ways to ensure you receive accurate and unbiased feedback from your team.


Create an Open Communication Culture


An open culture where your team members can voice their opinions freely is built over time by gaining the trust of your team. Building trust is a three-step process where the first step is to acknowledge your weakness openly. This means accepting that you have areas for improvement and communicating that acceptance to your team. You may tell them in person or write for company blogs [the second approach is more appropriate in a major crisis]. Your team will appreciate your authenticity and openness.


Second, you should encourage your team not to be afraid to approach you for feedback. When you feel a team member has made a mistake, you keep the criticism between the two of you. This will encourage your team to share their mistakes with you so you can decide on the best course of action before things escalate.


Third, make sure that you ask questions that your employees can answer objectively. Are you offering sufficient guidance on your project? Do you set SMART goals? Your team can't answer these questions with just a "yes" or a "no." Instead, use a five-point scale where 5 is "always" and 1 is "never." The answers you get from these questions will help you make adjustments wherever they are needed. Rewarding openness brings forth more transparency.


Identify Feedback Mechanisms


Address the simple question of how you will seek feedback for managers. You can seek input in several ways, and you will need to find the ones that work best in your cultural dynamics. Some commonly used mechanisms include:

  • One-on-one Feedback: This works best once you have built an open culture based on trust or when the team member feels comfortable talking to you openly. 
  • Group feedback: This is a more comfortable dynamic for your team as there is security in numbers. If one person speaks openly, it encourages the others to follow suit.
  • Engagement Surveys: These surveys gather detailed feedback on the employee's level of engagement with the company and their job satisfaction. Sharing the results post-survey and an action plan will get a higher response rate the next time you run them. 
  • Pulse Surveys: These are short and quick feedback mechanisms and typically have 1-5 questions. They are often focused on a specific part of the business. 

Give the respondent the option of submitting the feedback for managers anonymously or with their name. The offer of anonymity is likely to get you a higher response rate and more honest feedback. Try creating internal company blogs and post blog posts on receiving and providing feedback.


Learn to Read Between the Lines


Sometimes, what you need to know isn't necessarily reflected in the things your employees say. You will need to learn how to read between the lines to get the most out of employee feedback.


To achieve this triangulate between several feedback points; sometimes, that's how the whole story comes out. For instance, ask five or six people the same question. What you are doing is collecting data on the same issue from multiple sources so that you can put the actual story together. Casting a wide net while seeking feedback will help you identify and cover gaps in the feedback you have been receiving. 


Learn How to Disagree With Feedback


There will be times when you disagree with the feedback provided by your team members. Even in these instances, it's important to allow them to speak their minds openly before responding. It's important to thank the direct report for the courage to criticize you or the organization.


Tell them you disagree with the feedback but that you will take some time to look at things from their perspective to find the aspects of the feedback you agree with and thereby try and find a solution. Then take some time to reflect on it, and schedule a follow-up meeting to give a detailed explanation of why you disagree and what is the best that you can do. 


This conversation helps you understand the report's perspective while clarifying any misunderstandings. Even when disagreeing, always show appreciation for the feedback and a willingness to work out a mutually agreeable solution. That goes a long way to building trust with your team, helping them see you as a fair and just manager.


Wrapping Up


A common adage says, "be the change you want to see." You want to start with leading by example. If you want to provide feedback that your team members will accept and act on, first learn to seek and receive critical feedback. 


Build an open communication environment, learn empathetic listening and show you care by acting on the feedback you receive. It will help you turn the vicious cycle into a virtuous one. 


trust & communication are among your organization's values but are you truly living these values through behaviors? DH Values 2 Behaviors workshop will bring clarity & alignment to your org's values.    

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About the Author

Ian Loew

Ian Loew is a web entrepreneur and inbound marketing expert, and the Owner & Head of Business Development of Lform Design. After four years of helping Fortune 500 companies with MGT Design, Ian embarked on his freelance career before establishing Lform Design in 2005. He leads a team of creative professionals to deliver inspired online experiences via modern, responsive websites that reflect his clients' core values. When not at the helm, Ian can be found mountain biking with friends or spending time with his family.


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