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What effective leaders can do to receive honest-feedback from their team

Feedback from your direct reports is very critical to help you become the most effective-leader you can be.

However, it's very challenging to get honest-feedback from your direct reports. The higher up you are in the corporate ladder, the more challenging it gets.

Here are some specific things leaders can do to help team members feel comfortable providing honest feedback.

But first, let's talk about some of the reasons your direct report may hesitate to give you honest feedback.

  1. Fear that negative feedback may have negative consequences for them. This is a legit fear all employees feel. The problem is most leaders speak their mind easily and they assume their team members are like that. As a leader, the more you realize that this is a legit fear, the more equipped you will be to solve it.

Solution - Build trust. Trust is built by building strong relationships with your direct reports. One way to build this relationship is via regular one-ones and getting to know your team well, not just work related information but to appreciate and know them on an individual level, their unique strengths, their goals, and ambitions.

  1. Belief that it is pointless to give feedback. This happens when the direct report believes that you will not apply the feedback they give.

Solution - show them that you take their feedback seriously and that you will listen to them and actually change.

Given that you have fixed the above two, it's not over yet. Your direct reports will not give you feedback unless you make it easy for them to do so and you ask consistently. Here is how you can make it easy for them to give you honest feedback

Make It Super Easy to Give Feedback

1. Ask the Right Question. One best way to get feedback from your direct reports is to ask for it during your one-one meeting. However, note that not all questions are the same, and the quality of the question you ask determines the quality of the answer you get. So in this situation, instead of asking “Do you have any feedback for me?” ask a more powerful question “What’s one thing I can do to be a more effective leader?” Another version of this question is “What’s one thing I can do as your leader/manager that would make you more productive/effective”?

The reason these suggested questions are powerful is that it makes your direct report think about one thing. There is power in asking for just one thing.

But wait, even though this is a great question, whether you get honest feedback or not will depend on what you do right after asking it. The key thing that will make this effective is - Silence.

Master the art of asking the right questions and the power of silence

Once you ask the question, you have to remain silent until your direct report shares that one thing, and continue to listen until they are finished even though you might not agree or you feel defensive. Do not interrupt or comment. Once they share, thank them. Sometimes you may have clarifying questions, however it is best practice to follow up a few days after the feedback instead of right then and there. This will give you time to fully process and get clarity and frame your questions in a genuine and curious way.

We recommend you ask for feedback during all of your one-one meetings. One-one meetings are not only a powerful way to build trust but also a way for you to get feedback and become a more effective leader.

2. Create Multiple Channels

While it is great to get feedback directly from your direct reports during your meetings, it is always a great idea to have other channels for your team to share feedback. Some options are a link to an anonymous survey that your team can access at any time. You can have this link on your email signature or any location where your team can easily access it.

These are some of what effective leaders can do to receive honest-feedback from their teams and direct reports. Give these suggestions a try and share if it works :)


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