Don’t Punish Your Teammates for Being Honest

“Please tell me what you’re thinking. I promise I won’t be upset!”

She looked nervous. She was smart, forward thinking, and I could tell from her body language she didn’t agree with me. But, given the last project manager wasn’t open to feedback and often got upset when he received it, she didn’t want to repeat scoldings that were given in the past.

I have this baseball analogy I frequently tell people. A baseball player hitting .300 could make the hall of fame. That means for every 10 at bats, they get a hit 3 of them. Thinking in those terms, a professional baseball player getting it right 30% is awesome. Therefore, if I’m right 50% of the time, I’m having a really good day!!

For the other 50%, I need help. Therefore, I need those smarter people to essentially take me by the shoulders, point me in the right direction, and say “Go that way.”

In this scenario, we were looking at an overall delivery process. I thought it was pretty solid and told the team that. However, this project manager found an inefficiency with the deployment method. She knew there would be issues and wanted to mitigate them before projects got to that point. I didn’t see it, but as she dove deeper, the issue started coming to light. Yep, this was a problem I didn’t see. I was happy for the feedback.

If you’re in a leadership position, you will likely be giving your team members feedback. But what about feedback to you? Your best employees tell you what you need to hear, not necessarily what you want to hear. Honest feedback can be a gift, so when you get it, don’t get upset with the messenger. Here are some tips for accepting feedback from others.

Put your ego aside and actually listen. This one’s not easy and a lesson I was fortunate enough to learn early. Our self-esteem and self-importance is tied to ego, and to have it threatened with feedback is tough. When you do receive feedback, try to put your ego aside and listen intently. Ask for clarification and thank the person giving you feedback. They showed courage bringing it up.

Loyal criticism is a blessing. Your best team members, those who want to see you succeed, will point out blind spots. Chances are, you didn’t even know these existed, but were there. Take this feedback as a blessing! You wouldn’t have seen them otherwise.

The best teams are built on honesty and trust. Honesty and trust are two words not used enough in business. Teams who practice psychological safety where they are honest with each other and value feedback, develop trust that delivers results for the organization. As a leader, it’s your responsibility to create an environment where feedback is encouraged.

Feedback are gems, not stepping stones. We all want to advance our careers. We go along thinking we’re doing a great job and then BAM!, passed over for a promotion. When we ask, blind spots are identified that we didn’t even know existed. However, if we were open to feedback, they may be identified. These little gems of information could help us move up in the organization.

If you’re not ready to take feedback from employees, you’re not ready to lead them. If you’re a supposed leader, then you give feedback to employees frequently. Why shouldn’t it be a two-way street? You should get feedback from more than just your boss. If you’re ready to lead people, you need to be ready to receive feedback from them, also.

Feedback is critical to our growth. As leaders, we provide feedback to those who report to us. But as leaders, we must also accept feedback from those we lead. It helps us identify what we may not see and grow. Remember, when receiving feedback, consider it a gift, and don’t punish your team for being honest.

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