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Seek feedback at your own risk

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in Centerpiece,Leaders & Managers,People Management

feedback and magnifying glassIncreasingly, CEOs write blogs or regularly communicate with their workforce via audio or video recordings. Many leaders share their views on a particular topic and then add, “Let me hear what you think.”

An employee at a global company complied, emailing her responses to questions the CEO raised in his internal blog. A week later, she got a call from a human resources manager ­asking her why she corresponded with the CEO.

She explained that the CEO invited employees to share their thoughts. So she did.

Starting with the CEO’s next blog post, the invitation for feedback no ­longer appeared. This showed that the CEO didn’t really want it.

Many would-be leaders claim to crave honest feedback. But when they get it, they ignore it or even take offense.

For many CEOs, there’s a cost of asking for input: having to take it seriously. Yes, you can engage employees in a dialogue that makes everyone feel ­valued. But if someone offers hard-hitting feedback, you may wind up needing to change strategies or reassess long-held views.

Some leaders solicit feedback half-heartedly. They’ll urge employees to share their perspective on a proposed plan—and then plow ahead with whatever they intended to do all along. They may figure that by going through the motion of listening to others they can finalize a big decision under the guise of considering collective input.

Such behavior can perpetuate a destructive feedback loop. If you ask for feedback even though you don’t really welcome it (or your mind is already made up), your employees will conclude that it doesn’t pay to reveal what they really think. They may withhold important information from you because they assume you’ll disregard it.

— Adapted from “Don’t ask for feedback unless you want it,” Ron Ashkenas, The Conference Board Review.

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