Leadership Strategies: Become a Feedback Junkie
There is a problem at the top of most organizations. Employees, even senior executives, don’t talk….with you, the boss. Of course they will tell you about a specific work issue; but won’t tell you if they are upset with your abrupt manner, or inability to make a definitive statement. No, they leave that for conversations with peers, spouses, or a good friend.
We all know that it’s lonely at the top; one of the prices to be paid for moving into a leadership position. That’s what we expect; comes with the territory. Feedback is vital, yet it often comes when the best and brightest are already out the door. Then you hear how unhappy that great marketing maven was, or that cracker-jack sales type.
What happens when you ask for feedback? There’s a quote by movie mogul Samuel Goldwyn that has hung around for decades: “I don’t want any 'yes-men' around me. I want everybody to tell the truth, even if it costs them their jobs”. It may be funny for the moment; however, most employees take this as the basic truth of the workplace.
Why is it so hard to tell a superior at work the truth? This no-win mentality is prevalent in organizations and keeps people from being able to really sort through issues together, to engage in honest dialogue.
There is an underlying concern that has not been considered in most work setting. It sits like a great elephant taking up room in meetings. How we give and get feedback was first learned in our original organization, the family. It is here we learned about fairness, betrayal, consequences for telling the truth. And for most of us, it wasn’t pretty.
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We had “time out” punishments and were sent to our rooms. We were grounded or had car keys taken away. Now, the stakes are really big. The fear of speaking up and losing a job, especially in today’s tough economic environment keeps most of us mute. The pattern of retribution for speaking out when we were five or nine or fifteen is locked in our nervous systems.