I was chatting to a friend recently about work and I was interested in the fact that he felt uncomfortable about giving his manager feedback. Seemingly he had been working for him for a couple of years, and initially he felt that the new manager was a breath of fresh air, listening to the team thoughts, and as a result he had introduced some new and interesting approaches, which were well received. He tried to create a culture of it’s us against them and clearly his team were the best at everything, which they initially liked as it united the team. However over time his leadership style changed from being open and consultative to controlling, continually setting difficult targets at short notice, that were often not realistic and generally placed the team under pressure. He would dominate team meetings in order to bulldozer his ideas across which meant that participants either agreed for an easy life, or remained silent in the hope that would be an end to the meeting. When he was asking for feedback, it generally felt like he was really asking for the team to endorse his ideas.
Whilst there are always two sides to a story, and I haven’t had the chance to examine this from the leaders perceptive; listening to my friend it struck me that his manager had committed one of the deadly sins of failing to create a culture of Psychological Safety. This is where the team feel safe to undertake interpersonal risk-taking. This means being able to take risks and make mistakes, equally feeling able to share what’s on their mind - ideas, worries and concerns, without being shut down. By making a conscious effort to encourage Psychological Safety we are more likely to build trust, encourage openness and speed up innovation and performance, which means everyone wins.
As a leader it’s important to regularly ask for feedback in order to help the team learn and grow. This doesn’t need to be a long odious process but it does require being open-minded and creating a safe environment for others to share what’s on their mind. It’s worth remembering that strength isn’t just in a manager asking for the feedback from a team member, the real courage comes from the other person choosing to share some constructive feedback about their manager.
If you would like to know more about psychological safety, or how to give and receive feedback, get in touch.