Editor’s Note: In the new podcast Masters of Scale, LinkedIn co-founder and Greylock partner Reid Hoffman explores his philosophy on how to scale a business -- and at Entrepreneur.com, entrepreneurs are responding with their own ideas and experiences on our hub. This week, we’re discussing Hoffman’s theory: to lead an organization to scale, you have to be as skilled at breaking plans as you are at making them. Listen to this week's episode here.
It is my experience that the worst failure you can make as a human being is to be closed off to feedback from others, and that failure is made worse when you’re at the head of a company. I’ve seen countless leaders in upper management brush off feedback, or get defensive, making what should be one of their most valuable tools into a difficult time for not only them, but their colleagues and employees as well.
Feedback is a beautiful tool, one of the most important you can use. We all make mistakes in our haste or egoic desire, and without others there to help guide us, we would quickly go astray. Think of feedback like the gift that will keep you honest, successful and humble -- all admirable traits.
Sheryl Sandberg, an inspiring leader that we can all learn from, said in this week's episode that if her teams are unwilling or afraid to criticize her policies or her performance, that’s her failure -- and I agree. It is your responsibility as a leader to learn how to take feedback, graciously and effectively, and help your team trust that you can take it. Here are seven tips on how to get the most feedback to make yourself a truly effective leader:
1. Tell everyone you want feedback.
Be open about the fact that you want feedback, and not just once. Tell your team again and again, and make time for them to come to you. You need to make sure that everyone knows that they can approach you, and when. Also, ask for specific feedback about a project or policy in addition to being open to general feedback.
2. Receive it graciously.
If every time you get feedback, you swat it away in defense or disagreement, people will stop coming to you. It’s a vulnerable thing to give feedback to a superior, and the more gracious and accepting you are, the better environment you will create for future feedback. Be positive towards it in the moment, even if you disagree. Genuinely thank the person who went out of their way to tell you their truth, and tell them what your thoughts are, or tell them you’ll take some time to consider the feedback (and then get back to them after you have done so).
3. Create a positive feedback loop.
Not every bit of feedback will be applicable, and you may just flat out disagree. A “thank you” is still in order, but if you disagree, it’s best to explain why. This way, if you proceed with a project or policy that has garnered negative feedback, your employee will get something positive out of the feedback loop by knowing your decision-making process.
4. Be humble.
We all make mistakes. If you don’t take someone’s feedback, and later you wish you had, it creates a ton of trust to let him know that he was right and you were wrong. Humbling yourself is necessary and important if you want to be trusted with sensitive information. Also, if someone was right, don’t just tell him -- tell other people that his idea was better than yours. That will absolutely encourage others to come forward with honest feedback.
5. Hire those who will say “no” to you.
As a CEO or boss, you need to recognize that surrounding yourself with people who will be “yes men” is a majorly ineffective strategy for anything other than stroking your own ego. Anyone who has been truly successful hires people who are more skilled and talented than they are. Even if your team is only as good as you, they usually have more time to analyze a solution, and hopefully with time they can come up with solutions that are better or as good as you can.
6. Trust is essential to feedback.
You want to be able to delegate tasks, right? But, if you can’t take and trust your team’s feedback, then how can you delegate anything? If in general you don’t trust the opinion of those you’ve hired, then I think you’ve hired the wrong team. Overall, it’s your job to find the right people, and you should be able to find a team who can give you great input and has valuable opinions, even if sometimes you’re right and they’re wrong.
Related: 6 Tips for Hearing Tough Feedback
7. No one is perfect.
If you’re still scoffing at the idea of accepting feedback, I’ll tell you that someone who tries to be perfect isn’t a boss that anyone can believe in. Don’t be afraid to admit that sometimes you fail, especially since failure is the secret to success: Failing a lot and fast is a great way to succeed. Admitting your faults honestly and quickly will only make you more trusted and loved to those around you.
A leader who chooses to ignore feedback is a weak leader, indeed. The more you can open yourself to feedback, whatever it may be, and look at the grains of truth that might be there for you, the more effective and successful you will be -- more successful than most of the CEOs out there today.