Gone are the days when the leaders used to do the talking and telling with the expectation that the employees should just listen and do. The world of work has become an alliance, a partnership where leaders are also expected to attract feedback, listen and take cues from the team. This approach does not minimize the role of the leader but acknowledges the reality that the solutions for most pressing problems at work come from those who do the work. A leader who believes that he or she has all the answers is not worthy to be called a leader, instead, he or she needs more development.
In their book, Breaking Corporate Silence – How High Influence Leaders Create Cultures of Voice Dr. Rob Bogosian and Christine Mockler Casper emphasizes the importance of leaders understanding their power and responsibility for creating a culture of voice so employees will contribute ideas, concerns, and insights.
This will not happen in a space where leaders shun feedback.
A leader who eschews feedback discourages suggestions and compromises what could be great ideas to improve the team and organizational performance. Done frequently, this leads to a phenomenon called corporate silence. Corporate silence happens when employees deliberately withhold feedback because they believe that their views and suggestions do not matter. Stories have been documented of big corporates such as General Motors, Home Depot and Life Esidimeni in South Africa to name a few where leaders detested employee feedback with dire consequences at the end.
True leaders are open and amenable to feedback. They understand that growth comes from listening to different views, being open to opposing arguments so that they can see the world objectively.
You can create a positive shift in your leadership style by adding these nuggets in your leadership repository:
- Listen, listen, listen: I once facilitated a session where the leaders were hesitant to open up to feedback from their peers. Their leader then said to them; “don’t worry people have perceptions, take it a such. It is their own viewpoints and not your reality”. I had to challenge that view because, at its face value, it simply implied that all feedback is inaccurate. True leaders listen openly without judgment in order to absorb, reflect and apply their minds. After careful consideration, they will know what to take and what to discard from the feedback given. Quickly rushing to block information on the basis of questioning the intention behind it does not help leaders to grow.
- Use powerful questions: True leaders step forward to actively encourage feedback by posing spiral up questions to their teams. These questions facilitate a shift from telling to coaching employees. For instance, most leaders miss the opportunity to get valuable ideas and suggestions with statements like, “my door is open”, “you are free to say what is on your mind” while their body language and actions say something else. Powerful questions acknowledge that employees have answers and the leader can only help with questions that facilitate insights. Try the following questions with your team and see how you will change the trajectory of the discussion:
- Looking back at the project what do you believe we can improve?
- What can we do differently with the next project?
- How can I make your approach to the next assignment easier?
This is radically different from asking employees to speak their minds.
- Implement workable suggestions: You can only come to the decision that something is workable once you have listened and applied your mind. There are many data points that leaders can use to gather feedback, ideas, and suggestions that can be implemented for this purpose. One example of a chance missed by leaders is feedback provided through the employee engagement surveys. These surveys provide invaluable data that if acted upon can improve the team and the climate of the organization in ways unimaginable. The drawback is that employees are subjected to these processes but almost nothing is done about their input. Great leaders make it their business to implement workable suggestions coming from their teams. When employees realize that their ideas are valued, they become more open to giving feedback. They die for their leader so to speak.
You are responsible to create two-way communication with your team. The days of a top-down approach are over. If you want to grow as an individual and your team to perform better, it is your responsibility to encourage feedback by being open and amenable to it.
Tex Hlalele is a Personal Mastery, Leadership & Organisational Effectiveness Specialist. He is the author of the book, Face the person in the mirror. Book Tex to help you and your team gain insights and possibilities for individual learning and organisational advancement on +2764 656 6174 or visit http://www.dreamsmadepossible.co.za/contact.html