Written by B. Lynn Gordon (former SDSU Extension Agricultural Leadership Specialist).
Not only is it important to give feedback to followers such as employees, but it is important for leaders to do receive feedback in their role. In order to measure the effectiveness of your actions or commonly referred to in leadership, you are “doing what you say you are doing”, feedback from your followers is key. Just as a farm employee doesn’t know if they are fulfilling the needs of their job description or role unless they get feedback from their supervisor, leaders need feedback from their followers. Not taking the time to inquire if you are effectively serving them or clearly articulating your values through your actions, will prevent you from knowing what areas you need to improve upon.
Research has found effective leaders are in-tune with themselves and with those they are leading. Effective leaders can read the situation clearly, know when they have encouraged their followers to excel yet, they have the ability to also know when they have not inspired their followers, to create an environment of motivation and trust.
Seeking Feedback: Benefits & Challenges
Seeking feedback helps improve your leadership skills, identify shortfalls, develop open communication and build a team environment. For example, in a work environment when a leader has the willingness to listen to their employees they create trust and build credibility which is such an important part of a leader follower relationship. It demonstrates to the follower the leader is open-minded and truly wants to build a team. It’s an opportunity for the employee to voice ideas or thoughts to their leader and well-rounded leaders consider this an opportunity to where they can learn and grow themselves and fine-tune their ability to create a working relationship/environment. Through feedback, the leader may learn about a specific step they can take to help an individual employee be more effective in their role or as part of the team.
This does not always come easy for a leader. In fact, research by Kouzes and Posner has found when assessing leadership practices, asking if a person seeks feedback on how their actions affect others performance, has consistently been one of the lowest rated statements by those who completed in their leadership practice inventory (2014). These results have indicated one of the most important steps to learn how effective you are doing, is one that people tend to do less often.
Receiving feedback from those who look up to you as a leader is a challenging process. It is out of the norm. Usually we are more familiar with the feedback flow going from supervisor to employee not the reverse. It takes time to develop an environment where there is a comfortable flow of this open communication. When the opportunity to receive feedback occurs keep these points in mind:
- Don’t be defensive.
- Listen carefully.
- Suspend judgement.
- Ask questions and ask for examples.
- Say Thank You.
Avoiding this step of allowing your followers to provide feedback, prevents a leader from learning about how they are serving as a leader. Don’t miss out on this opportunity for personal growth for yourself and your team.