How to Get Authentic Feedback as a Leader


In a perfect world, we would do everything right and always know exactly what we should focus on. But this isn’t a perfect world, and we all have blind spots. This means we need to be intentional about seeking feedback as a leader.

It’s nice to hear positive things about yourself, but if all you ever hear are the good things, it becomes much harder to make necessary improvements. Comments and feedback like “Everything is going great.” and “Keep doing what you’re doing.” may feel good in the moment, but it doesn’t help you continue making progress.

Continual improvement requires you to analyze the progress and make adjustments as needed. If you’re not receiving authentic feedback, it’s impossible to know how to adjust your plan and actions.

Ways to get feedback as a leader

It’s not always easy to get feedback when you are the leader. Your team may feel leery of pointing out anything negative about you or how you’re running things. But receiving honest feedback is crucial to your growth as a leader. So, you need to be intentional about seeking constructive feedback. The following tips can help:

Ask specific questions

Instead of only asking for “feedback,” it helps to ask questions. It’s much easier to answer a specific question about one thing than to provide overall feedback. Here are some examples of questions you could ask:

  • What is one thing I could improve _______________?
  • How can the _______________ process be improved?
  • If you were running the company, what is one thing you would do differently?
  • What’s one way I could improve communication with the team?

These are very generic ideas, but they are just to help get your wheels turning. When you provide specific questions, it helps pull the answers out of your team. It also helps you get feedback on the areas you are intentionally working to improve.

You can still ask for specific feedback if you are a manager and not the business owner. If your employer only provides annual performance reviews, explore your options for receiving feedback regularly. Doing so allows you to adjust as issues or challenges arise instead of waiting until your review.

Don’t be afraid to ask your superiors questions like “What do you feel I could have done better on the ________ project?” These questions show your manager you are always learning and improving.

Put your pride aside and listen

Let’s be honest—it’s hard to hear negative things about ourselves. And it’s tempting when receiving negative feedback to go on the defensive immediately. Maybe you start making excuses. Perhaps you start trying to explain why the feedback is not valid. Or, maybe you start listing the things you’re doing right.

If you ask for feedback but don’t listen to what others are saying, they will eventually stop responding when you ask. Be willing to put your pride aside and listen. Then, ask follow-up questions if needed and end with thanking them for sharing with you. This creates an environment where others feel safe being honest with you about the good and the bad.

Surround yourself with independent thinkers

Some leaders surround themselves with “yes” people. These people always agree with everything you say and never question anything. Having these people around you may feel good, but “yes” people can be dangerous for your business. They can be high-achieving, people-pleasers who meet every deadline but aren’t likely independent thinkers. Instead, they are simply doing what they’re told.

“Yes” people will not likely provide authentic critiques and feedback. Instead, they will say whatever they think you want to hear.

You want to surround yourself with high-level thinkers who can follow your lead but are willing to contribute their voice and opinion even when it doesn’t align with yours. In addition, you want a team of individuals who understand how to provide feedback that leads to adjustments that will help the business continue to grow and scale.

Provide the opportunity for anonymous feedback

Because people are leery of providing negative feedback, it may help to create a way for your team to provide feedback anonymously. However, it’s important to note that there are drawbacks to this option. You will lack the ability to ask any follow-up questions. That means you may get a small piece of the needed information but missing key details. This could lead you to make unnecessary adjustments.

If you choose this route, it’s important to be specific in your questions. You want to write them in a way that guides people to provide complete answers with necessary details, examples, or ideas.

Work with an executive coach

You’ve likely heard the saying, “You can’t see the forest for the trees.” Unfortunately, this can be true in many areas of business. We can’t see our blindspots in business. We’re too close to the work we’re doing to be able to see where we could be doing something better. This can also be true of those who work with you, which is why working with an executive coach can be helpful.

A coach can provide a big-picture view and identify areas for improvement you have been missing. And because their success ultimately depends on your success, they are invested in helping you be your best.

SPEARity has several leadership coaching options, including group business coaching and one-on-one executive coaching. Contact us to explore which option is best for you today.

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