When performance reviews are discussed, it is often from the perspective of the leader providing feedback on the subordinate’s performance. However many research studies have proven that effective leadership be it at the supervisory or middle manager/director level or the executive level is an important factor in employee engagement and retention. Employees leave jobs primarily because of bad managers; whether they admit it on the exit interview or not.
So what can you do to ensure that you are doing your best as a leader? One first step is to make sure that you are not leading blind. Do you have a clear understanding of what your team sees as your strengths and weaknesses? If you don’t, how can you keep up with the strong leadership and improve the weak areas of your leadership style?
Some supervisors I’ve worked with have told me that it is scary to ask for feedback as it puts them in a weakened position with the employees if their flaws are exposed. While gathering feedback from your team may seem scary, it is better than them saying things behind your back (or worse, to upper management) and smiling to your face, right? Showing your team that you are open to feedback will gain their respect especially if you respond to the feedback.
While it may be tough to initiate a conversation with your team members on your performance, the rewards will be great if you do open yourself to learning from them.
Start by creating a very safe space for the employee to talk openly and honestly during the leadership performance review. Ask for constructive feedback that includes specific examples and possible solutions. Be ready to listen and apologize if necessary – act the way you want your employees to act when you are providing them with feedback i.e. open, relaxed and in problem solving mode.
Alternatively, you can ask these questions in an anonymous survey. If you do not have the technical support to do an anonymous online survey, ask your team to respond to questions within a word document and ask that they print them out and seal them in an envelope. Ask a staff person to collect the sealed envelopes for you and open and review them only when you have all of the staff’s responses to ensure anonymity.
Here are some examples of questions you can ask your team members:
- What motivates you to do a good job?
- When you feel disengaged, what has prompted that feeling?
- What is my greatest strength as your supervisor?
- What is my greatest weakness as your supervisor? Do you have any suggestions on how I could improve?
- When I assign work, do I provide clear instructions?
- When I assign work, is your workload manageable? If not, what do you find hard to manage?
- Do I encourage and support you to develop yourself further in this role? Is there something I could do to be more encouraging/supportive?
- Do you feel free to make decisions on how to do your job? If not, can you provide a specific example of a time when I prevented you from feeling free to decide on your work?
- Do you feel I advocate for supports (staffing, tools, training etc.) that impact your work to upper management? If not, what area of support requires more advocacy?
- What have you learned from me in the last six months?
- Is there anything you are hoping to learn from me in the future?
- Is there any other feedback you’d like to provide today?
You can ask a selection or all of these questions; that is entirely up to you. But what is most important is that you thank your team for being open and honest with their feedback and that you act on the feedback you received in a transparent way. For example, if you find through these leadership performance review conversations that your team does not feel you have advocated strongly for a tool they require, spend some time building a strong rationale and circulate it for feedback. Once you have a well thought out rationale, let your team know the specifics of the actions you plan to take and the result of those actions. You may not be able to get them the tool they need but your efforts will win their respect.
Your role as supervisor or manager is critical to the success of the organization. Gathering feedback from your team in the form of a leadership performance review demonstrates that you are as open to learning and growth as your team members are when you provide feedback on their performance reviews.
The single biggest decision you make in your job—bigger than all the rest—is who you name manager. When you name the wrong person manager, nothing fixes that bad decision. Not compensation, not benefits—nothing. – CEO Jim Clifton
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