What Leaders Need to Know About Feedback

Female leader speaking on a microphone in an informal setting

Successful leaders want to become more effective in every way. That is why many of them enroll in the Master of Science in Leadership degree program at Grand Canyon University. This senior-level business program combines business skills with the practice of servant leadership. It specifically focuses on communication, team-building and ethical business practices.

One area of leadership that falls within all of these realms is feedback. Feedback is an indicator that there are open lines of communication between a leader and their employees. Additionally, good feedback can improve team building and the sense of community. Feedback is a component of ethical business practices. When employees understand what they are doing well and what they need to improve on, they have options, versus employees who do not receive feedback and are fired or treated unjustly.

5 Ways Leaders Can Improve the Feedback Cycle

1. Make Feedback the Norm in Your Workplace

In many businesses, giving and receiving feedback can feel risky. Those giving feedback worry about how it is going to be taken. Those receiving feedback often do so with hostility due to negative experiences with feedback. When an environment focuses on feedback as a way toward company growth, a leader can establish a safe environment for all. By building an environment where feedback is taken and given with respect, your employees may become more curious and work together with more candor. This can introduce innovation and new ideas because the team is not afraid to fail in front of each other.

2. Ask for Feedback Yourself

This goes a long way toward building that safe environment of feedback. When the leader asks for feedback, they are showing vulnerability. They are also modeling what it means to receive feedback and actually consider its ramifications. A leader who asks for feedback demonstrates curiosity and the ability to listen and genuinely explore how your employees feel. By being open to feedback, you ensure that your employees communicate the important parts of the business process with you.

3. Know How to Ask for Feedback

Asking for feedback as a leader can build other people’s confidence. However, leaders need to learn how to ask for feedback skillfully. Simply asking, “What feedback do you have?” is unlikely to provide useful responses. Instead, leaders should be specific about the questions and areas for feedback that they are looking for. A leader might ask something like, “Was I clear when I shared my strategy in the meeting this morning?” or “Do you ever notice me interrupting people in meetings?” Leaders may also ask for feedback from the group about ideas rather than personal behaviors. They might ask open-ended questions such as, “What’s the worst that would happen if we tried X?”. This open-ended type of feedback helps employees feel safe in providing information because it is less personal than other types.

4. Give and Receive Both Positive and Negative Feedback

As a leader, it is important that you support your employees by praising them for their accomplishments as well as progress. In addition, they need to hear areas where they can still work on improving. You should also ask for this type of information about yourself. Of course, it is generally the bad stuff that leaders want to hear. Because they are constantly trying to improve, leaders want to know what to work on. It can feel less useful to some leaders to hear positive feedback. However, positive feedback from your employees lets you know what you are doing right and what you should continue to do.

5. Teach Your Employees How to Receive Feedback

Because people may have had traumatic experiences with negative feedback in past work environments, they often fear receiving it. In order to get everyone to a place where feedback is just another part of the job, a leader needs to train their employees on how to receive feedback. This includes teaching them to listen and give their full attention to what is being said. That means they should not be distracted by phones, laptops or impending meetings. They should also learn to not debate or defend themselves when receiving feedback. The point is to be self-aware and notice the tendency to be defensive.

When an employee reacts defensively, it decreases the likelihood of a person offering feedback in the future. This is why people need to be taught to accept feedback without too much emotional reaction. Finally, employees should be taught to accept feedback with gratitude. When they do, they will understand that feedback is given to help improve their skills and to make the workplace better.

If you are ready to lead a group of people in being excellent with feedback, the Master of Science in Leadership Grand Canyon University maybe just the right program for you. Find out more today.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Grand Canyon University.

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