Far too often, feedback happens behind closed doors. It’s like we’re living in the Wizard of Oz and don’t know what’s behind the curtain. We’re asked to make assumptions, trust the system, and share our thoughts and opinions. This type of approach is fundamentally flawed. The most effective leaders adopt an ‘open door’ policy when it comes to feedback.
1. Consider the mechanism
Marshall McLuhan famously coined the phrase, “The medium is the message”. So often leaders default to administering feedback virtually. While this approach is certainly appropriate in certain situations, it’s important to also consider other channels. Filling out online survey forms can feel robotic and cause your employees to lose the human touch. Ask yourself whether results are likely to be different if the feedback is given and received face-to-face, whether directly or through a third party.
2. Be truthful and transparent throughout the process
Employees are much more likely to contribute to surveys openly and honestly if they feel like leaders have their best interests at heart. If employees are skeptical of hidden agendas, they will be much less likely to provide accurate responses. Transparency is essential. Will employees be asked to expand on responses after the survey is complete? How widely will results be shared? I often recommend that leaders complete the survey alongside employees and share their own results with employees so as to instill greater levels of trust and confidence.
3. Be crystal clear about anonymity
One of the first concerns your employees will have when asked to give feedback is whether responses will be anonymous. You need to be crystal clear about this. Err on the side of caution. Clarify whether responses will be anonymous and to what level. Will high-level metrics such as age, department, email be shared? The more information you provide, the more likely employees will be to truthfully respond.
4. Give employees a say
In soliciting feedback, you’re asking your employees to give up their time to help you. They want to know what’s in it for them. Employees must feel confident that they have a say and are able to affect change. A study published in Basic and Applied Social Psychology found that employees value having a say even if they don’t get their way.
As an executive, it’s easy to succumb to cognitive biases and fallacies. Workplace surveys can help you uncover your blind spots and inform your future direction. With my experience and training in organization development, psychology, human resources, and leadership, I’m able to design surveys that identify and diagnose root causes and develop targeted plans that lead to action and organizational improvements. It’s feedback that evolved my own leadership, and that even caused me to start blogging. But feedback can’t be conducted behind closed doors. When you roll back the curtain, everyone benefits from feedback. It’s your yellow brick road to effectiveness.
I care deeply about helping leaders and advancing the human resources profession. I have authored two books, The Art of Executive Coaching and Stress-less Leadership, and maintain a regular blog. I am also a leading contributor for The Society For Human Resources Management, Entrepreneur Magazine, and The Association of Talent Development.
As an active animal advocate, I donate 100% of all book proceeds to animal welfare.
The opinions in this article are my own, and do not reflect those of my publishers or employers.