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Timothy F. Bednarz

Management

Actively Eliciting Feedback from Employees

Effective leaders are rarely able to change another’s viewpoint without altering their own perceptions

Published: Friday, February 24, 2012 - 16:38

Effective leadership is based on ongoing input and feedback. Where 20 years ago managers rarely asked for input, today effective leaders are regularly seeking and receiving employee feedback.

Leaders elicit cooperation from employees and other individuals when they listen to them. To move employees forward, leaders first identify their needs by asking for their feedback. Identifying employee needs through feedback allows leaders to modify their behavior to serve the best interests of their employees and unit.

Feedback is an effective communication mechanism that enhances productivity and motivation. Leaders use it to create a positive sense of direction that increases efficiency and reduces stress among employees. It empowers employees and gives them ownership in both the ideas and direction driving the organization.

This is important for leaders to understand because studies have shown that employees informed of the organization’s goals and progress are more productive and better able to persevere under difficult circumstances. These are indispensable qualities in the current business climate. In challenging times the informed employee is more likely to work closely with leaders to resolve problems and stabilize situations. Sharing information rather than withholding it enhances a sense of positive, coordinated teamwork.

The essence of leadership is to persuade others rather than control them. Persuasion is not a one-way process but a continuous feedback loop from employee to leader. The loop incorporates listening, understanding the employee’s point of view and perspectives, and positively responding to his needs. In doing this, effective leaders and persuaders are rarely able to change another’s behavior or viewpoint without altering their own approaches and perceptions.

When leaders communicate, they are in essence selling their idea to others. To effectively accomplish this they must:
• Create a dialogue around their idea or concept.
• Convince others their idea is valid.
• Actively interact with individuals to brainstorm and solicit new ideas, insights, and viewpoints.
• Build a relationship with the individuals.

This is an extremely productive chain of feedback. It demonstrates to employees that leaders value and respect them. If leaders fail to persuade others, they have also failed to understand the others’ needs and concerns.

Leaders solicit their employees’ feedback for a number of reasons. First, as people make decisions, feedback provides continuous testing of an idea or concept against actual conditions and underlying expectations. When leaders solicit feedback, they are asking their employees to question the assumptions behind the idea or concept, examine the expectations connected with it, and assess the realistic impact it could have on their organization. This amounts to a mutual search for solutions that yield shared advantages to all parties.

The use of feedback by leaders also enhances their effectiveness. The Drucker Institute reports that leaders become more effective and are perceived accordingly by their managers, employees, and superiors when the leaders:
• Ask for input from their employees.
• Learn from the feedback in a positive and nondefensive attitude.
• Follow up in a focused and efficient manner.

The pitfall to avoid is soliciting feedback from employees and then reacting emotionally and negatively to any bad news or information, in essence “shooting the messenger.” This only serves to quickly close down communication and replace it with an atmosphere of mistrust and paranoia.

This article is an excerpt from Improving Communication in the Workplace (Majorium Business Press, 2011) in the Pinpoint Skill Development Training Series.

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About The Author

Timothy F. Bednarz’s picture

Timothy F. Bednarz

Timothy F. Bednarz, Ph.D., is an accomplished author, researcher, consultant, entrepreneur, and innovator. He has founded three successful companies and has more than 26 years consulting experience in business development. As a critical thinker and transformational agent of change, he has the ability to view complex issues, identifying specific causes to develop meaningful solutions in simple terms. He has authored more than 125 books as well as a wide variety of high quality learning content. His latest book is Great! What Makes Leaders Great (Majorium Business Press, 2012). He is the author of more than 85 books in the Pinpoint Skill Development Training Series.