1 Step to Becoming a Better Leader.

Employee feedback.

If you want to be a better boss, some of the best information you can get is from your employees.

Whether you realize it or not they are watching you constantly, observing how you dress, how you handle challenges, and how you speak to other employees. They are analyzing your behaviour and your motives and they are very critical. But just because employees see your weaknesses doesn’t mean they will necessarily tell you about them. We’d all like to believe that we have such great trust and respect from our staff that they would surely come and tell us if they were concerned about something we were doing, or saying; but it doesn’t happen by accident.

Here are a few ideas on how to get honest feedback and put it into practice.

Make it safe

This is the first and hardest part of becoming a better leader. Even if you have great trust and relationship with your staff (and you should) they will always (even if they don’t realize it) want to give you positive feedback and shield you from the negative. There are many reasons for this: job security, the hopes of a new promotion, or they sincerely like you and don’t want to make you feel bad; whatever the reasons, it happens.

In order to combat this tendency, you need a way to for your staff to provide anonymous feedback. If your employees don’t feel completely safe, they won’t be able to give you their honest feedback. I recommend using digital tools like online surveys or even a word document that each person can type into, print off and drop into a shared box or envelope. Try to limit the amount of open ended questions and encourage people to write in bullet points rather than sentences so that you can’t easily identify who is saying what. Rating questions from 1 to 5 are also helpful for getting the overall feedback of the team in different areas of performance. If you can, involve HR in the process to help collect and compile the information into a summary form. This will inspire further confidence (and honesty) in the anonymity of the survey.

I’d also recommend creating regular opportunities for your team to provide feedback on your performance, and input on how they’d like to see improvements in the team in general. I include a section in each quarterly review for each staff to review my performance and recommend areas for improvement and identify ways that I can help them do their job better. I’ve found this feedback to be invaluable as I’m learning to lead a team for the first time in my career.

Follow Through

The only thing worse than not soliciting feedback on your performance from your staff is asking for it and doing nothing with it. It’s absolutely essential that your employees see you taking actions based on their feedback. You have to treat “getting better” as a project like any other; you need to set clear objectives, identify the physical actions needed and assign due dates for each in order to complete the project on time. I recommend using a tool like OmniFocus to help you self-manage this process.

As your employees see you taking actions, changing behaviours and delivering results they will feel more freedom to provide feedback in the future. Thus beginning a virtuous cycle of self improvement.

Grind it out

Becoming a better leader isn’t about riding in, making a few “big things” happen and then riding off again. It’s the little changes you make everyday to become better; it’s a slow and steady grind that over many years creates trust, transparency and results within your team or organization.

Have you had a great boss? What was it that made them great to work for? Have you worked for a bad boss? What was the most frustrating thing about them?

Posted on August 15, 2011, in Leadership and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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