Most bosses have weaknesses as well as strengths, but would your employees feel comfortable about speaking up if your behaviour was adversely affecting efficiency? This is the question Joseph Grenny and Brittney Maxfield ask in their article for Harvard Business Review.
It’s hard to take an objective look at yourself and your leadership qualities and pin down how you could be hampering rather than boosting the success of your organisation. Your employees, however – particularly those working closely with you – are well placed to identify the failings or unhelpful traits they witness on a regular basis.
They might discuss these surreptitiously, yet it’s extremely unlikely that they would raise their points directly with you, no matter how helpful their observations could be for the success of the business.
A CULTURE OF SILENCE
Grenny and Maxwell did a recent study with colleagues at VitalSmarts to find out whether employees would share critical feedback with their manager – particularly referencing behaviour. Although 80% had an ongoing concern about their boss, they would not raise it directly with him or her.
The authors say this failure to confront an ongoing problem inevitably leads to resentment and frustration. That’s why it’s important to encourage your employees to voice their thoughts and feelings.
So, how do you encourage your workforce to be open with their opinions? And how do you prepare yourself for what you might hear?
1) Open the door to employee/manager feedback. Make this a scheduled agenda item for your regular team meetings. It might take a while, but allow it to become the norm. Actively commit to improve in areas discussed, report back and let employees rate how you’re progressing.
2) Appoint an adviser from your close team. Tell everyone that this person will be giving you regular feedback as well as coaching you in your efforts to tackle your failings.
3) Make it feel safe to speak up. When you are with an individual or small group, give them an example of something tough raised by your adviser that you are working to improve. That can be a prompt for voicing other ways they would like you to improve.
HOW TO EASE THE PROCESS
When employees do give you difficult feedback, there are ground rules that could make the process less uncomfortable. They should:
1) Resist the temptation to complain. It’s more acceptable to hear why you should be concerned about an issue, rather than listen to straightforward gripes. You will feel more inclined to act if you know the consequences – for example, when you cancel meetings it leads to missed customer deadlines.
2) Suggest workable alternatives that can temper your weakness, rather than expecting you to change immediately. For instance, do they always need to wait on your OK for elements of a job that you always approve?
3) Engage with empathy, rather than resentment. If employees are honest enough to admit their own failings as well, rather than only pointing a finger at you, a more productive conversation can result.
Uncomfortable as it may be initially, getting into the habit of listening to employee feedback about your own performance can only be good for the success of your organisation.