Most people managers can agree: successful leadership hinges on a “relationships first” mindset. Though unfortunately, because of the hierarchical nature of the manager:IC dynamic, this relationship can easily become a one-way street.
Great news: there is one simple success habit managers can adopt to support the health and overall effectiveness of their team member relationships: ask employees for feedback.
Ok, you’re probably thinking: but giving feedback is MY thing.
And it should be (don’t stop giving feedback). However, flipping the script every now and then to make sure the way you give feedback is meeting each employee’s unique expectations and needs helps ensure your time and energy is effectively spent and serves everyone’s growth.
Embracing Differences = Optimizing Workflow
Everyone processes information differently. Meaning: if you relay feedback in the same way to every member of your team, that guidance is likely to impact some more than others.
EX: Because you are busy throughout the day and notes can easily slip through the cracks in the hustle, you might find it easiest to send feedback “in the moment” as you think of it, via Slack or G-chat.
However… some of your employees might not be able to digest this sort of information on the fly (to the point of real impact), or they might misunderstand your feedback, given the often vague nature of these channels.
This might not even be something you are privy to (without asking). Because some of your “top performers” might bode well with your communication style, it might not occur to you that those who have yet to show real growth are at a disadvantage, simply because the way they process information differs from your expectations.
The balance of your feedback (positive vs. constructive) may also be affecting certain employees’ drive and, as a result, their performance. But, because they haven’t had the platform (or don’t know how) to express these feelings, their burnout goes unchecked.
Closing this perception gap isn’t just a service to your team, but to the org at large.
By checking in with each employee to learn how and when they best receive information, you might find you are spending too much time with some employees vs. others, and/or missing out on an opportunity to offer the affirmations an employee needs to really thrive and bring their whole potential to their work.
In other words: this simple move helps optimize your own personal time management as well as each IC’s output.
Not to mention, when employees feel acknowledged and supported as their whole selves, they feel safer and more empowered at work. This is a major bonus for belonging, equity, and inclusivity across the org – ideals that aid retention efforts and, as a result of your investment in your team’s growth, help build your reputation as a key leader and asset to the company.
Your “Managerial” Personal Brand
In the words of one of The Forem’s Mentors, Andrew Brook, “a great manager is someone who can really unlock the potential of others.”
If you are a manager, you know more than anyone: being successful in your role requires connecting with people first – at the IC and stakeholder level – and navigating how to help each end of the corporate ladder achieve their goals.
Point blank: you can’t succeed to that end unless you recognize that each person on your team has different strengths, interests, work styles, and communication patterns. Failing to embrace these nuances leads to attrition, and/or (over time) a team greatly lacking in diverse perspectives, having been weeded out to fit a singular expectation of management.
This is no easy feat. Some team members might not feel comfortable coming to you to advocate for an approach in support of their needs. Often you have to be the one to let your guard down first in order for them to feel safe expressing any recommendations they might have for optimizing your working relationship.
Taking time to sit down and request feedback from each team member on your approach to managing them is a great start to building a healthy channel of communication over time.
And when managers and ICs communicate effectively, everyone’s job performance improves – ICs alleviated from the frustrations inherent to unhelpful feedback, and managers excelling in their role as a growth incubator.
Management styles are constantly evolving, particularly as people grow more aware of the systemic inequities that plague the corporate world and the shortcomings these inequities fuel – i.e., attrition, innovation flatlines, etc…
Being a competitive manager (and building a competitive org) demands a personalized, empathetic approach to retain talent and keep pace with the speed of innovation. Setting up twenty minutes with each of your direct reports this month to ask for their feedback (on how best to communicate, but also more generally – how could your working relationship improve to help them thrive?) is a small investment of your time, sure to yield major returns – for your career (and reputation as a manager), your org, and society at large.