As stated by Sheela Heen and Douglas Stone in the January-February 2014 issue of the Harvard Business Review, The (feedback) process strikes at the tension between two core human needs – the need to learn and grow and the need to be accepted just the way you are.” As a leader, is one expected to overlook their shortcomings and continue working with the same grit and passion to keep the entire organisation grounded? Or should they create a culture of feedback to shed some light on their blind spots? The almost rhetorical question seeks no answer. To be the best leader one must not only be open to taking feedback but also determined enough to implement it in their routine. When a leader is not open to accurate feedback, their actions would cause a significant gap with what they intended to perform. This, without doubt, could be the downfall of the leader and with him, the downfall of his entire organisation. In an era of technology and automation where all information is made available at the fingertips, here is how leaders can receive real-time feedback to improve their skills.
• Build a trustworthy environment
When the organisation is covered with a net of safety and trust, the employees are triggered to make the right decisions without the fear of being judged. This, in turn, enables them to put forward their feedback that leaders can adopt and align themselves with for positive outcomes. The employees would also refrain from sandwiching criticism amongst praise as their work environment would allow them to be individuals with straightforward opinions.
• Actively listen to and implement the feedback
There has to be a sincere effort from the leader to learn and improve their skills based on feedback. The leader must listen and even take notes as much as possible allowing the employees to feel more connected with the leader. Writing the feedback also provides the bandwidth to the individual providing the feedback to retrospect and give a second thought. The impact of the feedback is evident only when the leader actively works on it. This is the only way that the leader can convey that they are open to future feedback.
• Give regular and constructive feedback
It is also essential to continuously provide constructive feedback to employees. When feedback is provided it opens a two-way street to receive and reciprocate. The leader serves as a model, and it can also provide them with a new insight into the employee challenges when they put themselves into their member’s shoes. On-the-spot feedback is another effective way to open the communication channel between the leader and employees. When the leader provides on-the-spot feedback the employee, in fact, looks forward to the work and could reciprocate by giving essential feedback back to the leader.
• Be precise and receptive
When asking for feedback upfront it is essential to pinpoint the exact reason to ask for the feedback. The question must not be vague, as this causes the person to quickly phrase something to get off the hook. It does not help either individual involved in the process. Hence, one must refer to specific strategic objectives or requests when asking for feedback. The loop of feedback and learning is complete when the listener successfully maximises the benefit of feedback and uses it to become a better version of them.