Do you dare ask for feedback as a leader?

There is a frequent misconception that once you rise to a position that gains you a leadership title that your life will be easier.  Or, we believe if we rise one more level to the next level of leadership, then life will be easier.  People often think that once they are in a leadership role they will be able to easily make the changes that are needed and quickly make the decisions that so clearly need to be made.  We think we’ll be above the fray and won’t have to deal with the same day-to-day grind.  Some of these things may be partially true, if you’re lucky, but I mentioned many of these are misconceptions, right?

Leadership is not something that should be sought in order to make your life easier. Being a leader can be hard, but can also be extremely rewarding if the leader takes a clear approach toward their leadership career.  How does one take that clear approach?  By taking the time on a regular basis to improve our knowledge, skills, and emotionally intelligent behaviors that create an environment where the leader AND the team can thrive.  It is the responsibility of leaders to seek to improve the lives of the employees on their team and to build these teammates up on a daily basis.  Once you step into a leadership role you are now impacting the lives of the members of your team.  This matters.  You’re impacting people’s LIVES…as a whole, not just their workday.  Is that why you signed up to be a leader?  If so, hooray!  You’re ten steps ahead.  If not, just think about how each of us comes home at the end of the day and talks to our families about how the day went at work.  When things go poorly, the topic of conversation is frequently connected to the leader’s behaviors, or lack of behaviors.  And, when a day goes well, it is also often connected to how we were directly treated by our leaders. Don’t you want to be the type of leader who has a positive influence on the people around you?

So, how do you know if you are having a positive or negative impact on the lives of your teammates?  Some might say, “I can tell people are fine because I’m not hearing otherwise.”  The no news is good news approach. Others could think, “I’m too busy to ask everyone how I’m doing!” Or another thought, “I’m afraid of what they’ll say…”  Do you dare ask for direct feedback on YOUR leadership?  If this is a thought that gives you pause then I suggest you take some time and reflect for yourself what concerns are behind it. Asking for direct feedback from those you supervise is an absolutely necessary leadership behavior.  But here’s the next tricky part…You have to LISTEN.  That means that you talk less, and they talk more, and you do not allow yourself to get defensive or reactive.  That means you ask for feedback when you are in a good place to listen fully.  If you find yourself feeling defensive, one thing you can say is, “Thank you for the feedback.  I’m going to reflect on this and will follow up with you once I’ve had time to think it through.” Or, if you are able to in the moment, use your emotional intelligence skills to respond to them in a way that increases the chances that this is a trust-building moment for you both.  Sincerely thanking them for the feedback is a best practice no matter what.  It takes bravery for an employee to give their supervisor feedback.  You are in a position of power over them – honor that and make it as safe as possible.

If this makes you nervous, this is not something you have to do with a fire-hose approach in terms of asking 10 or more people for feedback in a single day.  Ask 1 or 2 of the employees you feel more comfortable with first.  Then, build up to the employees that you know less well or the ones who you know may be more difficult for you.  Here’s why I think this is so important:

1.    It builds trust with your teammates
2.    You are making it a safe place to have feedback conversations
3.    You are modelling openness to feedback
4.    It shows your teammates that you are all on a path of continuous growth and improvement
5.    It helps YOU build your leadership skills based on the experience of those you impact most
6.    And more…how do you think it could impact you and your teammates?

I have a friend and colleague who uses the phrase, “1-800-how-am-I doing?” It’s a great way to keep in mind that this doesn’t have to be earth shattering or intense; it can simply be a conversation.  Often the support of a coach can assist in the process of integrating feedback and helping you to set and achieve goals for your leadership and for your team.

Connect with Shelley here or give her a call if you’d like to visit about how you can be empowered as a leader and how to be a truly empowering leader for those you serve.

Shelley HayesComment