How to ask for feedback from your employees on your management skills (part 3)
This is the final part of a three part series on how managers can ask for feedback on how they manage. Managers get spotty feedback on how they manage, and employees are perhaps the best source of feedback, but it can be tricky. In my previous articles, I outlined how the manager can set up the conversation, and how to handle the actual conversation. In today’s article I discuss how to take this feedback conversation to the next level.
Here are the tips!
1. Help the employee provide better feedback
It’s a little “meta” to give feedback on giving feedback, but since employees are not necessarily skilled at it (nor are managers), coaching in this area in private and in a structured conversation isn’t necessarily a bad thing. First, if the feedback is artfully given (behavior-based, not generalizing, no value judgments), then reinforce that this feedback was given well. If the feedback is not artfully given, you need to clarify what you are looking for, and provide examples. For example, if an employee gives you the un-artful feedback that “You are a terrible manager,” ask, “Can you give me examples from your experience that led you to this conclusion?” Then if the employee provides examples, then say, “That’s what I need, specific examples so I can take action.” If you give un-artful feedback on un-artful feedback, i.e., “Your feedback sucks,” then the conversation will not go well.
2. Ask for what you are doing right
It is often assumed that when you ask for feedback, people then need to give only corrective feedback. So ask specifically for those things that you are doing right. If you are doing something right, and don’t realize it, then you’ll eventually stop doing it. So you need that positive reinforcement to keep doing the good stuff. Same feedback rules apply – the positive feedback needs to be tied to a specific behavior for it to be useful. “You’re the best boss ever” doesn’t count as positive feedback. A better version: “You helped me resolve this problem by talking to the director and persuading her to adopt our recommendation.”
3. Evolve it into a collaborative conversation
OK, so you’ve done the multi-step groundwork to create the conditions where employees give you feedback on how you can be (or continue to be) a better manager. As this continues over time, you will notice that these conversations should become more collaborative, trusting and open. Should you get the conversation to this level, then you are more capable of generating higher performance from both you and your team members. Having this capacity to identify, articulate and discuss what can be done differently will enable you to be able to solve more complex problems, and it will evolve from individual actions to team and organizational actions.
4. Evolve it into a structural, strategic conversation
In a previous article, I identified a “sympathetic model for change in an employee’s behavior” that takes into account the larger forces that drive people’s behaviors. After getting past individual behavior, if you want real improvement in the workplace –both in your management skills and your employee’s actions — you will need to look at and discuss things more systemically. Should you create the conditions where you can have good two-way individual feedback conversations with your employees, you will be able to have better discussions looking at the systemic issues that drive how your organization runs. The conversation won’t be about you, it will be about the system, and you can create aligned strategies for improving the team and organization systemically.
Creating the conditions for getting actionable feedback from your employees is a multi-step process, and it takes work. But if you want to be a manager who is great at managing, asking for feedback from your employees is something to consider. As documented before on this site, there are relatively few places where managers get real feedback on how they manage, so this process might be worth it.
For you management designers out there – what can be done to make sure managers solicit and get actionable feedback from their employees on how they manage the team? And assure that these conversations happen in a way that generates trust and gets results? Think about your organization – what forces, if any, are used to encourage a productive dialog between the employees and the managers on how the managers?