Real feedback from your team is hard to come by. Nobody wants to throw anyone under the bus or be labeled a complainer. But the feedback you get from your team and that you get from your clients should be equally important.
Have you ever heard of the CBS reality series “Undercover Boss”? Each episode features a business owner or CEO who disguises themselves as an entry-level employee at their own company. They get to see what the team experiences and get honest feedback on the state of the company’s culture.
It’s clever, and you have to admit it makes for great television. But most business owners can’t go undercover at their companies. They’re simply too familiar a face for it to actually work. Unless you’re a CEO with a team so big they couldn’t pick you out of a lineup, you need another way to get feedback.
Here at Newsletter Pro, we engage in real communication at all levels. We entrust each team member with an open invitation to meet with a manager at any time. They’re welcome to discuss issues they might be having or to deliver feedback — good or bad.
We routinely celebrate wins and hash out challenges in meetings, and we provide team members with a private one-on-one discussion with their direct manager or team lead once every month to bring any lingering concerns to the table.
To receive quantifiable feedback, it’s important to take communication even a step further. Here are some easy things you can do once or twice a year to gauge the “temperature” of the team and find out what you can do better.
Conducting a survey might seem obvious. But surveys are a surefire way to get your team to open up about how things are going and what they really think about the company, their work, the culture, and your management style.
However, a survey often works best if it is anonymous and confidential. Create an environment where your team feels safe to say what’s on their minds. It’s the only way to receive completely honest, constructive feedback.
Create a list of yes or no questions or ratings using a numbered scale. Once you’ve come up with your questions, express to your team that the answers are confidential and anonymous. You’ll soon receive some great results.
Reviews are another medium for acquiring feedback, provided you don’t view them as a one-way street. When your team has their quarterly reviews, for example, why not go under review as well?
Team members who work closest with you are in a position to give you a very useful evaluation, but only if you show them they’re safe to do so. This means you’ll have to remind yourself not to get defensive.
Evaluations are only effective if you allow your team to speak honestly, without fear of retaliation. Some feedback might be hard to hear, but don’t ever challenge it in the review setting. You are not on trial. It will be better for everyone in the company, in the long run, if all parties involved can take an evaluation, digest it, and turn it into positive change.
Don’t go through with any of these steps if you don’t plan on using the feedback you receive. The most important step in receiving feedback or criticism from your team is to address it. Publish and talk about the results of the survey (keeping all anonymity), and ask for ideas from the team on how to improve areas that are lacking.
If, let’s say, the results show that a majority of your team feels a need for more concrete goals, come up with a plan on how you’ll break down the company’s mission to make it more visible and tangible for everyone. To the best of your ability, use this valuable information. Your team will thank you for giving a damn, and you’ll be more likely to keep them around for the long haul.