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10 Tips to Help Employees Provide Feedback to Their Managers

Many years ago, I had the great honor and pleasure of serving as a civilian psychologist for our active duty Navy and Marine Corps personnel. This was during the early phases of Operation Iraqi Freedom and was an active time for our military. I won’t use up my time and space here elaborating on all the reasons why it was such an honor and pleasure for me but just take me at my word – amazing experience and an amazing group of people.

Leadership vs. Followership

For today’s purpose, however, I want to call out one of the many values espoused by the military that is tremendously important but often overlooked, particularly in the “civilian world.” That is the value of followership. We all know about leadership and there are innumerable experts offering guidance on how to maximize our leadership impact. But truly effective leadership also requires effective followership. To be clear, followership is not simply blind compliance and it is not just following orders. Like leadership, followership is multi-dimensional and is defined in many different ways. It can be somewhat complex at times. In the spirit of simplicity, however, I like to think of true followership as doing everything one can to ensure their leader is as effective as they can be in their leadership role. The stronger the leader the more effective the mission. The more effective the mission, the more we all win. Therefore, we all have a part to play in making our leaders stronger in service of the overall mission.

I like to think of true followership as doing everything one can to ensure their leader is as effective as they can be in their leadership role.

One way we can fulfill our obligation to our leaders in ensuring they are as strong as they can be is through providing them feedback. Just as feedback is a highly effective and necessary tool for helping us grow and improve, so too is it an effective and necessary tool for helping our leaders grow and improve. Be it positive feedback or critical feedback, we owe it to our leaders to help them understand the impact they are having. Effective leaders know this and will welcome such feedback from those they lead. But if you’ve not been in environments where feedback is encouraged, the thought of giving your leader feedback can be a bit daunting, at best.

In an effort to help guide you, I offer 10 quick tips to help smooth the process:

1

Check yourself.

Before giving any feedback to your leader, ensure you are not simply being reactive, emotional, or otherwise speaking to meet your own needs rather than the needs of the leader.

2

Timing is everything.

Look for a time when your leader can give full attention and for a setting that allows appropriate discretion. Giving feedback to your manager is best done one on one, privately. This is true for positive and critical feedback.

3

Show respect.

While leaders should be open to feedback from their teams, nothing says they have to be. Also, right or wrong, this person is the leader and you are not. As much as possible, come from a place of respect.

4

Establish context.

Feedback in a vacuum is nothing more than noise. Help to establish the context for this feedback before providing it.

5

Cut to the chase.

Everybody is busy so be respectful of limited time and attentional resources. Be direct and get to the point. Lay out your observations and be sure that you connect those “dots” as efficiently as you can to get to “so what” point. Make the distance between the “what” and the “so what” as short and direct as possible.

6

Test for gaps.

Remember, you are sharing only your perspective. It is possible your perspective is limited, skewed, or only partially informed. It could also be wrong. Check for gaps and don’t assume your perspective is the only one. Ask your leader if there is anything you may be missing which may help you to understand things differently.

7

Be clear in the ask.

Nobody likes a complainer so don’t be that person. Instead, be clear in what your ask is from the leader going forward. Grounded in the reminder that you are providing this feedback to your leader for a reason, be clear in the ask associated with this reason.

8

Volunteer yourself.

Follow the ask of your leader with an immediate offer to take on any role that may be needed in support of the ask you just made.

9

Wrap it up.

Be brief with these conversations – unless you both agree that they will be longer discussions.

10

End with gratitude.

Leaders who are truly willing to be receptive to feedback from their teams are typically leaders who want to do all they can to ensure they are effective in their roles. This, in turn, increases everybody’s odds of success. See this for what it is and end with gratitude for the openness, receptivity, and the commitment to personal excellence in service of organizational success.

...providing feedback to our leaders in support of helping them be as strong as they can be is one of the primary duties of being strong followers...

Naturally, there are myriad of ways to go about delivering feedback to our leaders and the 10 tips provided above are simply suggestions. However, whether you use these tips or not, the challenge going forward is remind ourselves that providing feedback to our leaders in support of helping them be as strong as they can be is one of the primary duties of being strong followers to those leaders. We need to be willing to lean into this duty. Good luck!

Learn about the importance of giving and receiving feedback

Dr. Jody Bradham is a Licensed Psychologist and Executive Consultant with 26 years of experience in the “people change and growth” business. Since joining TalentQuest in 2011, Jody has been actively working with clients across a variety of industries, and has built a robust coaching practice working primarily with senior level managers and executives.

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