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Human Resources: Lead by example

Human Resources: Lead by example Q. How can I encourage feedback in our organization?

A. It's easy to imagine the experience of a doctor's office visit: after waiting 30 minutes to be called into an exam room, another 30 minutes pass while waiting for the doctor to finally arrive and perform their exam. This usually consists of a thorough physical checkup, followed by a few tests, before the doctor makes a final determination. However, instead of staying to hear the doctor's recommendations, picture leaving before the physician even has a chance to reveal their diagnosis. It's highly improbable that anyone would do this; however, this happens routinely in situations outside of the doctor's office. Many people refuse to listen to the opinions of others, feeling it's unnecessary, or are simply afraid to learn the “real diagnosis” through feedback. 

Leaders often ask what they can do to drive employees toward embracing feedback. The answer is simple: lead by example. When employees witness their leaders requesting feedback, they are more likely to mirror this behavior. Employees are also equally as likely to accept feedback from their leaders if they observe those leaders doing the same. 

Knowing your audience is important when providing feedback. While some employees are comfortable receiving feedback in an open setting, others prefer a more private scenario. Being able to gauge the appropriate place, time and manner is essential to creating a positive culture around sharing feedback.

Lastly, one of the keys to creating a positive association with feedback is by being an advocate for the practices you expect employees to adopt. Leaders should be transparent with regard to the intended use of feedback, especially as it relates to organizational improvements. Like medicine, feedback may initially be hard to swallow, but the long-term benefits make feedback the prescription to success.


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