Feedback for Leaders

My coaching client said he told his boss, “I need you to do more. Show up for the team. Specifically, if you schedule meetings, let me know if you’re not going to be present instead of just not showing up which makes us all look bad.” My mouth was agape. This is exactly the style of Radical Candor I urge my clients to use with their team members. I was shocked because my client was able to use the technique upwards, with little discomfort or trepidation.  

I also recently gave a talk about transitioning into the role of leading leaders and noted a primary difference as you move up the career ladder is that you stop hearing how you’re doing. Praise is practically non-existent and constructive feedback… forget about it. Not receiving feedback however is dangerous. As a leader, you must have input from your organization which is being driven by your leadership! If you come across as unreceptive or out of touch, people may assume the worst of your leadership competency, and they themselves may become disengaged. Worst yet, you may be missing innovative ideas because individuals are afraid to communicate upwards. A tepid workforce can lead to disengagement and disengaged employees are the first step towards a low performing organization. Therefore, you must stay open to receiving constructive feedback through receptivity, approachability, and curiosity. 

Encourage your subordinates to share feedback in regular one-to-one meetings. Don’t simply ask for it, build it into an ongoing agenda item. Below is a two-directional feedback model I recommend implementing to support your continued growth and performance:

  • Allow your staff members to self assess their performance (both strengths and weaknesses) from the previous week.
  • Encourage staff to assess your (the manager’s) high and low points from the previous week.
  • As the manager, provide both praise and constructive feedback to your staff members from the past week.
  • As the manager, self assess and acknowledge where you believe you did well in the last week, and where you needed to improve. 

The above feedback model: Staff-Self, Staff-Manager, Manager-Staff, Manager-Self should be considered ahead of time. It can take as little as 5 minutes but no more than 10 minutes. Start flexing this “feedback muscle” weekly over and over with your team (and peers!) until it becomes second nature. In doing so, you will create a feedback culture and thus understand what your employees really think of your performance. Being receptive to feedback will align and engage the workforce, which in turn leads to a successful organization.