The more status a leader holds in any organization or team, the more the information they receive is filtered. In other words, team members are notoriously reluctant to share their candid views upward. Even when attempting to be frank, team members commonly withhold some information or put a more positive spin on it. Truth has various shades, and those with lower status protect themselves by offering less light than would be ideal.
This is a problem for leaders who seek feedback about their own performance from their team. When asked, ”How am I doing?” or “How did that go?” leaders can expect the response, almost as a reflex, to be “Great!” The best leaders overcome this ingratiation by asking better questions.
More specific questions elicit more honest answers. “What is one thing I need to change or work on?” is a better question. Better still is to ask, “What should I do differently next time?” Questions that ask for a suggestion elicit more honesty. “What would you suggest I do to be better?” Questions that request a recommendation also push past the polite response, “Please give me one recommendation for improvement.”
Leaders who have evolved know how important it is to receive feedback from those they lead. The very idea that a leader wants and values feedback from those they lead changes the feedback climate in a team. Asking better questions to elicit more candid feedback is an essential skill. How would you suggest we make that point more effectively in the future?