My new boss told me to never be afraid to give feedback. The next Monday morning in a meeting, I happily shared my viewpoint on a new policy. Thereafter, I noticed my boss’s disposition towards me changed. He stopped talking to me. I was shunned. I even felt the effects of this in my monthly performance appraisal, where he noted, I was not supportive of the organization, and I needed to be a better team player. The picture was quite clear – truthful feedback was not appreciated.
Heather, a co-worker approached me and said, “You are new, honest feedback is just lip service, don’t fall for it.” I quickly learned loyalists and sycophants were appreciated, while realists were punished. They built a culture of “yes employees.” I knew I had so much to offer, yet I couldn’t. Six months later, my boss was fired. He made a mistake on a proposal that cost the company its biggest client. This could have been easily avoided if he had just asked for honest input.
Listening is the most powerful skill a leader can master but it requires humility.
“The Emperor’s New Clothes” – Promoting honest feedback
Be Humble. Many people think humility is a weakness, but it actually takes strength. It makes you approachable. The more humble you are, the more team members would be motivated to share their suggestions and recommendations with you. One of the best employee engagement tools is transparency. To be transparent requires two-way communication, therefore, feedback from employees is important. Honesty creates a solid platform to building a relationship of trust and loyalty. Employees want to be heard and they want to be respected. Listening shows that you care. Additionally when you receive feedback, act upon it. This helps improve employee morale.
PRIDE – The ego must go. The ego blinds us with a false sense of indestructibility, clouds our judgement thus leading to poor decisions and a break down of relationships. It’s not about you. Build a strong team and surround yourself with smart, passionate and highly competent people. Researchers at the University of Michigan and Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management in Illinois in one research stated, “flattery and opinion conformity” makes leaders overconfident, resulting in “biased strategic decision making” and an overall disconnect from the execution on the ground.
Developing leadership skills is a lifetime project. It’s too easy, as a leader, to feel like you have to be the one who knows everything. Great leaders recognize that they need to keep learning. Leaders need to be willing to learn and be open to seeking input from both inside and outside their organizations. Feedback allows us and the organization to grow. Additionally, treat everyone you meet with respect, from the janitor to the CEO. Great business tips may come from the most unlikely sources.
” Listening is crucial to gaining a complete understanding of situations. Without this full understanding, one can easily waste everyone’s time by solving the wrong problem or merely addressing a symptom, rather than the root cause.”
Titans as Blackberry, Kodak and Nokia have paid the price for leaders who refused to listen. Their leaders operated in a bubble and engaged in group think. The greater your success, the more you need to stay in touch with fresh opinions and perspectives and welcome honest feedback. Raw truth is needed to make well-informed decisions and steer the organization in the right direction.
As a leader, your job is to encourage others around you to be open and honest without a negative consequence. When employees offer their ideas and differing opinions – be open-minded. Companies that remain strong in this competitive market, understand the need to embrace change and continuous improvement. More than ever, leaders will need to master the skill of “Lead with Listening.” The success of your business will depend on it!