How to Handle Feedback as a Leader

It’s impossible to get to the top – or anywhere else for that matter – without listening to suggestions or advice. When you’re put in charge of a team, it’s not because you’re perfect, but because direction is needed. But you can’t lead your team to success while operating in a vacuum; feedback is key.

A leader is responsible for making sure that their business has satisfied employees just as much as satisfied customers or clients. And there’s no better way to do that than by having a staff that feels empowered to speak openly and honestly.

But how does the person at the top learn how to listen to the people they’re charged with overseeing? Here’s a look at how to handle feedback as a leader while not taking it personally.

 

Think It Through

We’re often told not to be emotional at work, but most of us spend so much time at our jobs that it’s nearly impossible not to be. Whether you’re laughing at the water cooler (which fosters important bonds that strengthen collaboration) or having a disagreement, emotions are part of the job. But if there’s one time that you need to think more than feel, it’s that brief moment between hearing feedback and reacting to it. Take a moment to really listen to what the person is telling you, process it, and then frame your response in a professional manner, and as a leader it’s even more important to maintain control of your emotions. Remember, neither of you is trying to escalate the problem, you’re both working on a solution.

 

It’s Not About You

If you thought about your reply before reacting, then you likely know that the feedback, at least in most cases, isn’t personal. When people complain or express their concerns, it’s normally not for the sake of creating a problem; it’s often rooted in something, and as a leader it’s crucial to keep that in mind. It’s important for a manager to know how their workers feel and what they think of the business and how it’s doing. In a healthy work environment, what the staff is saying shouldn’t be seen as a personal attack, so there’s no reason to feel defensive or threatened.

 

Ask Questions

When receiving feedback, it’s important to ask yourself certain questions. Is there merit to what’s being said? Does the person have a point? Getting some constructive criticism should be seen as a learning opportunity, since no one is perfect. Debating each point raised will get you nowhere, and it can be exhausting, while also likely discouraging that person or others from providing more in the future. If the feedback is given respectfully and supported by evidence, then it’s important to reflect on it and find a solution. The point is to resolve the issue and grow, both as a business and a team. Take employee feedback at face value, instead of assuming that they’re wrong or being troublesome.

 

Say ‘Thank You’

Have you thanked your team, lately? When presented with good ideas, it’s important to give credit where credit is due. Taking ideas from your subordinates is never a good option and will likely lower morale and foster a hostile environment. The amount of good ideas coming from your team can actually be seen as a result of strong leadership; it’s not a competition. If you’re hearing good suggestions for how to improve the business, remember to thank those responsible – preferably in front of the rest of the team – and let them know they’re valued.

Managing a team isn’t easy, especially if it’s a group with different personalities working towards the same goal. Whether you’re giving feedback or receiving it, it’s always best to ask yourself why it’s needed and how it will help improve things. Letting others voice their opinions comes with the job, and it will make you a better leader and manager to simply listen.

 

Dontei Wynter | Contributing Writer

 

Bridging the Management Age Gap

Millennials are known as the generation of smartphones, over-priced coffee, and a reputation for entitlement and leisureliness. Despite this, the success of millennials is becoming increasingly apparent in the workplace. Look around your office and you’ll probably notice the ages of both employees and managers is decreasing significantly. A recent survey by office-equipment maker Pitney Bowes found that about 20% of mid-level corporate employees now report to a boss who is younger than they are.

However, in this age of entrepreneurial startups and advancing technology, different work styles and perceptions of those differences can create many challenges. For example, there is a stark difference between millennials and baby boomers. While older workers spend more time in the office within regular work hours, the younger generation often prefers getting their work done whenever, whether at home or from their laptop in a café. These kinds of philosophical differences can have negative effects on productivity. However, there are ways for younger people in authority to handle this gap. Below are a few tips on how to instill authority and respect in the workplace.

Be Mindful

Older employees can certainly be put off by having to report to a younger manager. It’s important to be aware of those feelings and acknowledge them. Don’t assume you have the upper hand due to your higher position. Express an interest in your employee and ask them for their opinions on how you can improve as a leader. They may very well have insights that can benefit you, and they will appreciate your respect for their experience and knowledge.

Give and Take

Give lessons, provide feedback, and offer firm and feasible guidelines for your employees. In return, take feedback as well. Older employees are often more knowledgeable about the company and its history. Take advantage of their deeper well of experience, both in the office and generally in life.

Do Your Job

It can be daunting being a young manager. However, instead of shying away from being an authoritative, strong leader, it’s important to keep your goals in mind and get the job done. Not confronting older employees who aren’t working to their full potential, or letting others take the lead merely to make them more comfortable, will only decrease productivity. You’re the manager for a reason; prove why.

Older employees should implement these tips in the workplace as well. Along with being mindful, providing feedback, and doing their own jobs, it’s important for older employees not to get too bogged down in ego and commit to working with a younger manager. The knowledge and experience of the older generation and fresh perspective and energy of the younger age group can be combined to contribute to the workplace in a positive manner. Getting past age discrimination – from both sides – will help everyone work together and be more productive.

 

Tasnia Nasar

Resolving Conflict in the Workplace

Conflict happens. Differences of opinion and different work styles can create problems, straining relationships between coworkers and reducing their efficiency and productivity. They may become unmotivated and dread coming into the office. But if properly handled, conflict can also be an opportunity to move toward a better organized work environment.

Below are some steps to help managers avoid and resolve conflict in the workplace:

Communication

Clear communication plays an important role in avoiding conflicts in the workplace. Be very clear and specific with your message and communicate in a way that everyone can understand. When talking with or emailing your colleagues, make sure they understand everything being discussed, as misunderstandings can lead to more problems in the future. Ensure that all necessary information is being properly conveyed to avoid this.

Clarify Misunderstandings

When conflicts arise, bring both parties together and let them have a professional and respectful conversation. Make sure each party understands the other’s point of view. At the end of the discussion, make sure an agreement of some sort has been reached and any misinterpretations are addressed.

Consider All Sides

Speak with each party individually to understand the issue behind the conflict. Ask them for suggestions on how to best avoid this situation in the future. After hearing everyone out, analyze the feedback and focus on the problem itself rather than the specifics of who did what. Any action taken should be with the goal of improving the overall work environment. Meet again with the parties involved and provide your solution. Be impartial and emphasize what’s best for the company in order to avoid future complications.

Eliminate Negative Feelings

Solve the problem in a manner that helps both parties feel like the issue has been resolved in an acceptable manner, ideally with no lingering bitter feelings. Everyone should be satisfied with the solution so that the work environment remains a respectful and friendly place.

Be Cooperative

Everyone has their own way of working and accomplishing tasks. Don’t impose your ideas on others and instead consider their views. Avoid bias, treat everyone equally, and be fair with all your employees and coworkers. Bring it to their attention when they make mistakes, but also applaud them for a job well done. If you make mistake, apologize, and accept your part in causing the problem. Never assume any conflict is insignificant; always try to solve it as soon as possible, rather than letting it fester. Try using written notes or emails to help your peers understand the solution to a problem. And always keep the bigger picture in mind.

Structure

Encourage collaboration. Create a structure that facilitates teamwork and requires staff to work together to complete tasks. This is one of the most effective conflict-resolution techniques and it will make employees realize the importance of working as a team to support each other.

Regardless of the specific workplace, everyone expects a friendly and healthy setting when they’re doing their job. It’s everyone’s responsibility to create a positive work environment. It eliminates stress and keeps employees cheerful. More importantly, it brings out the best in people on a daily basis and helps increase productivity.

U. Lakhia

How Does Your Company Measure Your Potential?

Understanding how your employer gauges your potential can have a major impact on your position at the company, and on your career. If you know what they’re looking for in an employee, you can improve your chances of advancement.

When a manager is evaluating an employee’s potential, they’re considering factors like motivation, skill, experience, and the willingness and ability to learn, and evaluating how that employee can or will impact the company as it moves forward into the future.

Clearly, there is variation in terms of what different companies and management teams look at when determining an employee’s potential. But some factors are common, even if they may seem obvious. Still, knowing how your employer measures your potential can be valuable information both for your own personal development and for your advancement within the company. Here are a few commonly-used indicators.

Quality of Work

There are many ways for an employer or manager to asses the quality of your work. It might be through a series of specifically stated goals they’ve set for you, or through subjective analysis from your direct supervisor or manager. There is also what’s known as the 9-Box Grid method of assessment, a graph with one axis representing an employee’s potential, and the other their performance. So, a high-performing but low-potential worker would be ideal in their current role, while a low-performing but high-potential employee would be in need of coaching to unlock that potential. Other factors companies use to measure performance can be as simple as tracking the number of errors an employee has made, or, depending on the nature of their work, quantitative statistics like the number or amount of sales made or units produced.

360/180-Degree Feedback

The concept behind 360-degree feedback is for an employer to get performance feedback from a staff member’s direct manager, colleagues, subordinates, and customers. This can be done through specific questions or as a more general performance evaluation. Alternately, 180-degree feedback is similar, but is limited to the employee’s co-workers and manager, and is typically utilized when the worker doesn’t manage people and/or interact with customers.

Leadership Potential

Many businesses will also consider their employees’ potential to rise to a leadership position. Part of management is being able to observe when employees demonstrate a knack for managing others, delegating duties, and taking responsibility for projects. In a small or medium-sized business, it’s often easier for management to get a feel for an employee’s abilities and potential to advance by direct observation. (It also costs a business more to hire and train new employees than to promote an internal candidate.) Factors like drive, organizational skill, the ability to learn quickly and think on their feet, and empathy towards colleagues are some of the traits a good manager will look for when assessing an employee’s leadership potential. The Korn Ferry Institute, an authority on leadership and recruiting, has its own test for measuring leadership potential that takes into account many of these traits and more.

Once you have an idea of how your company measures your potential, you’ll be able to adjust your behaviour accordingly and focus on the right things. Whether it’s making a point of being in the office early every day, contributing in meetings, helping your colleagues with their projects, or just putting in the extra effort when executing your duties, demonstrating your potential to management is a sure-fire way to get ahead.

 

Justin Anderson | Assistant Editor