12 Tips to Get Honest, Constructive Feedback From Your Employees

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Honest and transparent teams are likely to succeed for the simple fact that they value an open dialogue. If your team isn’t on the same page about your plans, projects will suffer and the business may lose the momentum it needs for growth.

This is why, as a business leader, it’s critical to ensure you’re receiving constructive and helpful feedback from your team. To help you make this a priority for both you and your business, 12 members of Rolling Stone Culture Council discuss their best tips for leaders.

Start With Transparency

In my experience, leading from a place of transparency creates strong bonds and better performance. Spending the time sharing what goes into these decisions takes away some of the confusion and gives the team an opportunity to feel involved and to understand why, and it also provides a moment for them to give their ground-level expertise, which is often overlooked. – Adam Manacker, The Gastro Garage

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Make Sure Your Team Is Comfortable

I’ve seen a lot of ultra successful companies have a dictatorship-type model where the founder — who is a billionaire or super rich or prominent — has “yes” people around them. Hence, honest, transparent, constructive feedback cannot be given, which is the most important factor for improvement. I recommend all leaders make sure everyone around them is comfortable speaking their minds in a respectful manner. – Royston G King, Royston G King Group & Companies

Foster a Safe Environment

You need to foster a safe environment where your employees can feel that they can express any opinion. When you have that kind of environment, employees feel that they can say what they think without the fear of ridicule or repercussions. As an employer, you will then feel that you can trust their opinions and that they aren’t just telling you what you want to hear. – Chris Oakley, ZOO Digital Group plc

Listen Actively

Suppose your employees feel deeply committed to company culture. In that case, feedback will usually be constructive, so we must do our part to listen and do some ear training to comprehend our employees’ needs and suggestions. Acute observation is a good quality in any leader, which is why I recommend actively listening as the best way to earn and receive employee feedback. – Jacob Mathison, Mathison Projects Inc.

Maintain Personal Authenticity and Integrity

I maintain my own authenticity and integrity as a personal policy and encourage others to do the same. When leaders collectively commit to transparency and personal accountability, they allow for the development of a natural flow of open, two-way communication within the community. A culture that supports communication in this way is one in which honesty and constructive feedback will flourish. – Kimberly Napoli, Vicente Sederberg LLP

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Provide Your Own Feedback

Honesty is a two-way street. If things are hectic or slow, I tell my team that I noticed. If I don’t know the answer to something, I don’t pretend that I do and instead I ask my amazing team for help. I remain respectful and lead by example. There is a clear demarcation between leader versus team member, but that doesn’t mean we aren’t equal as humans. – Victoria Kennedy, Marisa Johnson

Determine What Isn’t Being Addressed

I initiate a discussion to see what issues aren’t being addressed. For example, I choose one or two team members to suggest better ways I can operate more efficiently and then, rather than be combative, I write down the points and revisit solutions when we gather for the next meeting. This encourages honesty and respect from all parties involved and ensures overall efficiency for everyone. – Tiffany Gaines, SS Global Entertainment

Make Your Team Feel Valued

Honest, constructive feedback comes when your team feels valued. Express the ways they are valued in a public way (e.g. sharing during meetings, highlighting an employee of the week or month, noting their efforts and feedback in front of others). Combine that with open-door availability for all, and your team will come to you with their ideas and sincere feedback. – Sheila Dedenbach, Heavenly Sweet

Lead by Example

The best leaders are comfortable in their own skin, and it shows their teams that they can be comfortable too. People are a lot likelier to be fully honest when they feel at ease. This can be easier to implement with flat organizations than with hierarchical ones. People lower down in a pyramid may not feel comfortable voicing concerns to higher levels, although they may well be closer to the issue. – Cate Rubenstein

Explain That Feedback Is Welcome

I believe it’s important to make it clear to your team members very early on that constructive feedback is always welcomed. If you make this clear from the first interview and onward, they will feel more confident in speaking up when it’s time because it has become a clear part of your team culture. – King Holder, PROCUSSION

Respond to Feedback With Thoughtful Action

The key to honest feedback from a team is in how one receives it. If you listen, repeat the feedback for clarity of understanding and respond with thoughtful action, it is likely team members will continue to communicate openly. Once a leader shows signs of defensiveness, distraction or inaction, those feedback loops suffer. – Erik Oberholtzer, Cohere

Maintain a Culture of Trust

You should always fight to maintain a culture of trust. Trust encourages collaboration, which in return creates honesty from others. Through this collaboration, you discover that others feel empowered to freely speak their thoughts. On our film sets, I am always asking the crew for their creative collaboration. In doing so, everyone takes small ownership of a project and the project benefits. – Kelly Schwarze, Indie Film Factory

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