How to Get Honest Feedback from Your Direct Reports

Getting honest feedback from direct reports is critical to the success of a manager


Grace Tripathy , Mon 25 April 2022
Your team knows better than anyone what it’s like to work for you. But that doesn’t mean they’re going to tell you. When it comes to giving feedback, many direct reports figure, “Why risk it?” or “What’s the point?”
They’re cautious because they’ve heard about, or experienced managers lashing out, hurting people’s careers, or just plain ignoring them when they share what they really think. But it doesn’t have to be that way!
You can be a different kind of leader; one who understands that just about everything you do and say impacts your direct reports’ lives and performance; a leader who truly wants to hear their unpolished feedback; who proactively seeks out that feedback so that everyone can reach their highest potential, including you. 
 
Why is it important that managers receive feedback from their direct reports?
No one wants to offend the boss, right? But without input, your development will suffer, you may become isolated, and you’re likely to miss out on hearing some great ideas. 
The feedback you get from your direct reports can help to shape your management style, decision-making process, and the ways in which you interact with your team members. This kind of feedback can not only make you a better manager, but ultimately, it can also help to inspire a higher level of performance in your team.
So, how can you get your direct reports to give you HONEST feedback?
 
How can managers get honest feedback from their direct reports?
            Acknowledge the fear, and embrace your desire to be the best leader for your direct reports! 
            As the boss, you have to set the stage so people feel comfortable with you. You need to break through their fear. You know that everyone makes mistakes, even you! Tell them this. Explain, honestly and openly, that you need their feedback.
But at the same time, it’s important that you recognize how hard it might be to hear this tough feedback. It’s human nature to feel upset when you’re criticized. However, in order for you to be the best leader that you can be, and to help your team thrive, you need this feedback! Here are three ways to help you get there:
 
●     Establish a groundwork for high-trust feedback exchanges 
●     Conduct regular 1:1 meetings with your direct reports 
●     Use the right evaluation software: AIM Insights 
 
  1. How to establish a groundwork for high-trust feedback exchanges
 
Do you want your direct reports to give you honest feedback?
You can’t expect your direct reports to provide honest, open, and helpful feedback if you don’t provide it to them. It’s a two-way street. So take care to model best feedback practices that signal trust, respect, and fairness. 
Unless you already have a strong, trusting relationship with your direct reports, you likely won’t get far bulldozing your way straight into a sensitive task (e.g., “So, how am I doing as a manager?”). But most people, even new hires, will be comfortable and possibly even flattered if you initiate feedback exchanges over lower-stakes topics related to the team’s work. This will send a strong message that you care about, and rely on, your team’s opinions. 
Showing that you care about your direct reports through mutual feedback is essential! You won’t get honest feedback from your direct reports if they don’t feel safe. And they won’t feel safe if you react to the inevitable challenges of work-life with cringes, frustration, or anger. 
 
 
  1. Importance of regularly conducting 1:1 meetings with direct reports
With a loaded schedule like yours, you have limited time, your task list is endless and the goals are aggressive. And your calendar is already full of other meetings: Management meetings, Quarterly review meetings, Sync meetings, and much more…
But as a manager and leader, there’s one meeting you should have and follow: one-on-one meetings with your team.
A one-on-one meeting is a dedicated space on the calendar and in your mental map for open-ended and anticipated conversations between a manager and an employee. Unlike status reports or tactical meetings, the 1:1 meeting is a place for coaching, mentorship, giving context, or even venting.
The 1:1 goes beyond an open door policy and dedicates time on a regular cadence for teammates and leaders to connect and communicate.
 
 
 
  1. Am I using the most efficient evaluation software? 
What method do you use to conduct self/team evaluations? 
When conducting performance evaluations, things can often get messy. How often should you conduct them? What forms should be involved in the process? How long should it take everyone? 
Stress, no more! At Ambition in Motion, we’ve created AIM Insights, a software to help YOU conduct your evaluations with simplicity
AIM Insights is a tool utilized by fortune 500 companies to help teams set goals, measure performance, and engagement improvement, and create greater communication between direct reports and managers.
This software allows leaders to stay up to date on their direct reports’ engagement levels, productivity levels, and individual goals on a month-by-month rolling basis. 
 
How should managers respond to the feedback from their direct reports?
As a manager, it’s crucial that you respond to employee feedback. 
One of the biggest frustrations for employees who take the time to give thoughtful feedback is when this feedback is ignored by their peers, manager, or organization. Responding to feedback from your team members shows them that you take their ideas and opinions to heart.
Remember, it’s important to read, ponder and acknowledge all of the feedback given to you, but you’re not required to take all of it! 
Regardless of whether you decide to take the feedback or not, you owe it to the direct report who gave you the feedback to communicate your intentions. 
Sometimes it’s important that we have these conversations about our intentions in order to show our direct reports that we’re changing and growing every day. 
 
Example of what you might say if you choose to take the feedback: “Thanks so much for your feedback, John. You make a great point. I’m going to work on talking less during meetings and making sure others get the opportunity to weigh in. If it’s OK with you, I’d also like to check in with you in our 1-on-1s to see if you notice any progress.”
 
Example of what you might say if you choose NOT to take the feedback: “Thanks so much for your feedback, John. I’ve given it a lot of thought. While hearing your feedback about my meeting facilitation was helpful, I’ve decided to prioritize another behavior change right now: committing more time to coach the team. But it means a lot to me that you were honest, and I’m going to continue asking for your input.”
 
            Utilizing your 1:1 meetings to convey your thoughts and appreciation of your direct reports’ feedback is a great place to start! 
            Good luck! 

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