If you want to be a successful leader, ask for feedback

Feedback is a boondoggle concept for a lot of people; it’s another one of those things that supposedly will be ushered into the mainstream with the advent of millennials in the workforce, although no one is entirely sure. Right now, you could argue that the concept of real, honest “feedback” is pretty much dead in American corporate culture — for example, while we listen to our consumers/clients on a minute-by-minute basis (well, ideally we do), we still evaluate our employees (essentially our internal clients) once a year, if that. See how that’s kind of dumb? Admittedly, performance reviews — as presently construed — are mostly a train wreck. But still, the fact that they happen once a year (and again, if that) is disheartening because orgs love to talk about “real feedback” for their employees. (Well, some orgs do.)

If you’ve ever heard of Zenger-Folkman, they do a lot of writing (and consulting) around these topics. They did something for Forbes just now-ish on feedback that’s interesting.

This chart measures a leader’s ability to ask for feedback (the bars) and that leader’s effectiveness rating from others (the left side):

Leaders and Feedback

Now, this was presented with very little methodology behind it — or even how “Looking For Opportunities To Get Feedback” is defined — so it’s pretty easy to argue with some of the effectiveness of what this all means. But at a base level, you can see the bars going up; the top 10 percentile in terms of “looking for opportunities to get feedback” also get rated at 86 percent effectiveness as leaders; that’s basically six times — 6x! — those in the bottom 10 percentile in terms of looking for feedback.

So if you take this chart at absolute face value, you can essentially make yourself 6x more effective as a leader if you simply improve your approach to asking for feedback. That seems like a relatively small thing, no?

I understand that you’re a very busy person and you don’t even have the time to actually respect your employees, but this idea of “asking for feedback” is just a way to bolster your relationship back to employees (good) and understand what their concerns are (also good) and what they’re doing (also good); in the end, for a simple gesture of “Hey, what could I be doing?” they’re going to evaluate you in a more positive way. Good vibes travel well in most orgs — that stuff might float up to your boss, or even the C-Suite. So even if you’re doing it for an overall selfish reason, do it. It’s pretty easy to ask someone “Hey, how am I doing?” and get a few thoughts — and such a simple move can increase how others see you by a factor of six. Nice, right?

Ted Bauer