Getting Honest Feedback From Your Team
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's easy to just say that I get feedback by asking my team to tell me what they are thinking. You would think they would just say if I upset them. But, it doesn't work that way.
Don't let anyone convince you otherwise -- achieving an open and (candidly) honest environment takes time. That's because it generally scares people to speak up, especially when it involves the person that hired them -- and could fire them. They don't want to lose their jobs. The fear often comes from a previous job where no one spoke up because they didn't want to lose their job.
I get it because I've been in their shoes, so I tried to be conscious of that fact when I developed a strategy that would get my team to tell me what's on their mind.
Start with my own response mechanism.
This means I had to work long and hard at allowing myself to take it just as well as I could dish out. I can let anyone on the team know where they stand with me -- and that includes when I love what they did and when I just don't. It's so much more difficult to digest what others have to say.
I had to continually tell myself not to take it to personally and not let emotions drive the feedback receipt process. Whether we realize it or not, our mood creates a vibe that our team will pick up on.
Stay calm and the team is likely to tell you what's really on their mind. I use mindfulness to reflect and meditate on what people say to me so I have the right mindset to be open to it. I'm not going to lie, this takes practice.
Ask open-ended questions.
These are not necessarily directed at what I'm doing specifically but more so about their own role and how they feel it's going.
This shows them I'm interested in what employees are thinking about without them feeling like I'm asking them what they think of me and the choices I make. This is a good launching point for opening up a culture of dialogue that can develop into more specific feedback as the trust grows. When I ask these open-ended questions, I listen and only ask further questions if I need clarity.
It's important to always thank employees for taking their time to answer these questions. The appreciative words transmit the message that I value their input.
Related: There Is No Such Thing as 'No'
It encourages the team when I share reflections on myself about how I plan to improve, the goals I am trying to achieve with the business, and things I learned about myself and the business while building it. My own candor is a mix of wins and losses.
At first, the team was surprised that I told them about what I learned in the self-reflective practice. However, they expressed interest and immediately started offering suggestions or input. This was the door opening a little wider to that honest feedback I was looking for from them.
Include me in the performance review process.
It's up to me to provide the right tools and environment. The performance review is typically just me and one team member. This provides a confidential environment to be open. The review includes a section about what we both do that's awesome.
It also covers what we both could do better. By putting me into the review, I'm letting them know I want to hear their perceptions. This has been one of the most successful ways to get honest feedback, but it's only been introduced after all the other tactics were used.
These are essentially the building blocks to getting honest feedback. Be patient, let the trust build, accept what your team says and make the changes that show them you listened.