Want Brutally Honest Feedback From Employees? Here's How These 6 Entrepreneurs Get It.

It's tough being the boss, and no one is perfect. Here's how your team can help you be better.
Want Brutally Honest Feedback From Employees? Here's How These 6 Entrepreneurs Get It.
Image credit: Tommy Parker
Magazine Contributor
4 min read

This story appears in the October 2018 issue of Entrepreneur. Subscribe »

Feedback is easier to give than to receive. But to be a good leader, it's crucial to get (and respond to) critiques of your style. We asked six entrepreneurs: How do you encourage employees to give honest feedback?

Related: 5 Steps for Giving Productive Feedback

1. Welcome it.

“Nothing can replace a trusted team of managers who feel secure enough to share and speak honestly. A few years ago, one told me that my weekend emails were stressing out the team. They weren’t urgent messages, but the feedback reminded me that any from your boss feels urgent. Now I save emails as drafts and send them during business hours.” -- Annie Bystryn, founder, Cider in Love

2. Act on it. 

“When I sense an employee is comfortable with me, I’ll ask questions like ‘What can I do to better support your growth here?’ and ‘Is there anything you wish I didn’t say or do?’ But how you act after is the most important -- it will determine how honest employees will be with you moving forward. You need to prove that you value their opinion and not show an ounce of pettiness. Nod, smile and thank them. Then fix the problem and move right on!” -- Rachel van Dolsen, CEO, RVD Communications

Related: Employee Feedback Is Only Effective If It's Done Right. Here's How to Make Sure It Lands.

3. Switch it up. 

“When I visit our restaurants, I’m sitting with the general manager and the kitchen manager tasting and providing my thoughts on the product and the execution. Once the conversation ends, I turn the tables and ask, ‘You’re CEO for one day -- what would you do?’ I then listen, take notes and follow up on anything I commit to.” -- Justin Rosenberg, CEO, Honeygrow and Minigrow

4. Make it part of the culture.

“We work hard to create an open environment where employees feel empowered to suggest changes to better company culture, including suggestions regarding . All managers frequently touch base with their direct reports to realign work slates with both business needs and employee development. Instead of a fixed annual or biannual performance review, we leave the floor open for both managers and employees to initiate feedback.” -- Jessie Zeng, co-founder and CEO, Choosy

5. Take it outside.

“I try to spend social time with my teams to get unfiltered feedback. Recently, I was at lunch with one of my developers, and he told me it bothers him when I ask whether or not he is fulfilled -- it makes him feel like I don’t think he enjoys working here. I’ve since changed the way I communicate with him and let him know that I don’t question his commitment to or enjoyment of his work. I don’t think he would have confided in me if we had been sitting in the office.” -- Steven Clausnitzer, co-founder and CEO, Forever Labs

Related: How These Entrepreneurs Use Feedback and Honesty to Build a Thriving Business

6. Confront it.

“Don’t just say you want honest input and then create virtual roadblocks where employees are too intimidated to speak out. We have company fireside chats, and I try to anticipate the tough questions I’d ask if I was in the audience and proactively address them in plain terms. If you acknowledge the obvious -- good or bad -- and address it head-on, you signal that you’re open to constructive criticism.” -- Chris Terrill, CEO, ANGI Homeservices


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