It’s not enough to just ask for feedback once. Research shows that the most effective leaders also follow one rule: Get lots of feedback.
The value of feedback has been written about time and again. But new data from leadership consultancy Zenger/Folkman really drives home the value not just of receiving feedback– but of asking for it.
Zenger/Folkman partners Jack Zenger and Joseph Folkman wrote about their survey on the HBR Blog Network earlier this week. The finding showed a clear correlation between leadership ability and willingness to ask their employees for feedback.
The Better You Are, the More You Want to Get Better
Leaders who ranked in the bottom 10th percentile of asking for feedback were rated at the 15th percentile in leadership effectiveness. While those in the top 10 percent of asking for feedback from their employees were ranked in the 86th percentile in overall leadership ability. And this trend held for all brackets in between the top and bottom performers; that is, the more a leader asked for feedback, the higher their leadership effectiveness.
And it’s not just that asking for feedback makes a strong leader; it’s that the type of person who asks for feedback tends to make a good leader.
Why You Might Be a Problem
There’s just one little problem. As a leader, you wield a lot of power. So while you might be earnest in your quest for feedback, your employees might be a little intimidated about taking the gloves off and dishing it out. To that end, check out management and communications expert Scott Berkun’s five keys for eliciting feedback from your team.
1. Who you ask. Start with an employee you trust and know well, and ask them for feedback on something small. Push them to be honest, Berkun writes. Use this as something of a momentum builder, and eventually you’ll find yourself asking for more feedback on more topics from more people.
2. How you ask. Don’t ask big, vague questions like, “What do you think?” Ask about specifics about the topic at hand, and ask that the employee be specific in their answers.
3. When you ask. Give them a chance to give a thoughtful answer. That means, ask them the question or questions ahead of time, let them mull it over, and then meet with them to really talk it through.
4. Where you ask. You might receive more honest feedback in a more informal setting, Berkun says. Think about getting coffee or a beer, rather than sitting opposite the employee in your office behind your desk with your big, scary nameplate that says CEO.
5. How you respond. This might be the hardest part, but, Berkun writes, “If you really want feedback you have to be prepared to shut up and listen.” Qualifying or clarifying questions are okay, but don’t act offended. And at the end, be sure to offer sincere thanks.