If you are a leader, one of your fundamental objectives should be to make sure everyone on your team knows whether they are doing a good job or not. Crucially, you also need to make it easy for people to let you know if you are doing a good job or not.
The best way to do so is to create a culture of feedback within your organization to ensure that communication becomes enshrined as a critical value.
We know that feedback motivates employees, boosts engagement and heightens morale. Unfortunately, leaders cannot flip a magic switch to change the nature of communication. It takes consistent effort.
As a leader, it is up to you to get people to buy into the culture of communication and feedback you intend to create. So, how do you do that in a way that is sustainable? And how can you get your people to join the effort enthusiastically?
I have some ideas…
First, A Few Questions
To truly change your organization’s culture, you need to understand where it stands right now. You also need to ensure that you are operating from a place of self-awareness. After all, a lot of leaders feel like they are practicing healthy communication when in reality, they have a lot of work to do.
Furthermore, I believe that it’s critical to check in with your assumptions about the current state of your company and the ways in which feedback is valued.
Here are some of the questions you can ask to clarify where you and your organization stand right now:
1. “Do I need to pry to get people to open up?” If communication is stagnant within your company, you’ll know it by the way people respond when you ask them for feedback. If it seems to take a great deal of effort to get people to speak up and discuss their thoughts openly, it’s likely because they feel uncomfortable with sharing in your organization’s current culture. This behavior means you have quite a bit of work to do to help people believe it is safe to say what they really think.
2. “Are people only telling me what I want to hear?” Maybe you feel like you’re getting positive input on a consistent basis – your team seems to have no problem offering their perspectives. However, pay attention to patterns. Is the feedback you receive useful or actionable? Or has it been carefully designed to sound good to your ears?
If you discover that employees are tailoring their statements to suit what you want to hear – instead of offering the truth – it’s not their fault. Rather, take the opportunity to consider why they may be afraid to open up. Do you react poorly when feedback is less than positive? Consider the ways in which you react to certain types of communication. It’s possible that changing some of your listening behaviors will lead to improvement.
3. “Am I only telling people what they want to hear?” On the flip side of the communication coin, you need to be courageous and tell people what they need to hear, rather than only saying what they want to hear. Consider some of your recent interactions and conversations. Did you say what needed to be said, or did you sugar-coat it to avoid ruffling feathers?
4. “Do people seem to just ignore my feedback for them?” If you find yourself regularly wondering why your people fail to internalize feedback effectively, you may be tempted to discipline them instead of investigating the issue at its source. The fact is that if your feedback seems to fall on deaf ears, it’s up to you to change your message and craft communications in ways that connect with your audience.
5. “Am I just too comfortable with the status quo?” Organizationally speaking, it is often difficult to make changes to the status quo. Leaders tend to get comfortable with “the way things are” regardless of how unproductive or even toxic things have become. If you want to improve the flow of feedback within your company, you need to get comfortable with the idea of being uncomfortable.
Now that you have checked in with yourself and the state of your organization, you can start making changes.
Here are some suggestions that can ease the process:
#1 – Take Action Now
In order to make feedback a continuous conversation, you must voice it in the relevant moment. It’s not about waiting for the right time or putting it off until it’s time for performance evaluations. By conveying your thoughts in the moment, your people can take appropriate action. If you wait to share your perspective, its impact will decrease, and it will become much less relevant. Of course, there will be times when it is not appropriate to give immediate feedback; however, the sooner you can let people know your thoughts, the better.
#2 – Make It About the Little Things
Many managers focus their input on the big picture, which is certainly useful, yet sometimes they fail to focus on smaller, day-to-day concerns. The goal is to create a culture where communication flows continuously, so I advise adding more granular, daily feedback to your employees’ diets to normalize the process and make it a part of your culture.
#3 – Remember to Strike the Right Balance
Employees who hear constant praise tend to play it safe, only doing what they know will continue to get them more praise. On the other hand, those who hear constant criticism tend to feel alienated and uninspired. It is up to you to strike the right balance with your people. And you cannot expect what works for one person to work for everyone else; your feedback balance and your approach will have to be formulated for each individual. Tools like the Emergenetics® Profile can help you tailor communications to your employees’ preferred ways of thinking and behaving so that your message is even more impactful.
#4 – Offer Ways to Improve
Regardless of whether your feedback has been positive or constructive, it is crucial that you offer avenues for improvement. Don’t just tell your employees that they are doing a great job; tell them specifically what stands out and what they can do to be even better. Similarly, don’t just tell them that they need to do better; let them know what steps they can take to get there.
#5 – Ask Questions and Listen!
As a leader, your role is not about commanding orders through a megaphone and expecting fully compliant excellence. Leadership is about stoking the fire of communication so that it flows throughout the organization. Feedback should include questions like, “what do you like about this project?” or, “why did you decide to do it in this way?” And when you ask questions, it is your duty to listen to the answers.
Finally, you must be open to receiving feedback yourself. Ask your people how they think you’re doing. Find out if they have what they need from you. Inquire about the pros and cons of your leadership. Then you can act in ways that let your people know you are there for them. Doing so will improve communication considerably, while driving engagement upward.
Need More Help With the Flow of Feedback in Your Organization?
The flow of communication within your organization can be improved if you take the right approach as a leader, and it might not be easy. And that’s okay! Changing company culture is a major task, so it’s understandable if you feel like you cannot do it all alone. The good news is that help is available.
If you want to make your organization a place where feedback and communication is a highly valued currency, send me an email at email@example.com or fill out the form below to connect with the Emergenetics team.