How Am I Doing, Boss?

    If you were a typical student in grade school, chances are that you experienced some level of anxiety when report cards were being issued. There was always that one class with that one teacher who was difficult, unfair, didn’t get it, or whatever label we affixed to make us feel better about the grade that was lower than what we wanted. No one typically likes being “graded”.

    Those past emotions have helped to make many employees uneasy about receiving feedback, especially from their bosses. And similarly, they make bosses apprehensive about giving their staff feedback.

    EVERYONE has something in their behavioral style or demeanor that may negatively impact others. Most often, we are not able to recognize our own shortcomings and how they affect others.

    As a boss, you have an obligation to assess how well you are managing your team and how you are perceived by them, your superiors, your peers, and even external parties like customers,  vendors and contractors. There are tools that can facilitate this, most notably a 360 degree survey, but these can be very time consuming in the aggregate, as all parties involved are asked to take a typically 15-45 minute on-line survey (sometimes a “soft” 360 is performed in-person by a consultant which is even more time-consuming, and expensive).

    You can save a lot of time and money by asking three simple questions from trusted individuals in each of the above groups:

    1.      What should I keep doing? (What’s working)

    2.      What should I start doing? (What will improve things)

    3.      What should I stop doing? (What’s not working)

    If you are able to present these questions in an open, non-confrontational manner, the information can be very valuable. But, that’s the easy part. The tough part is being able to accept the feedback in a constructive manner. There’s this thing called “Ego” that sometimes gets in the way. So does insecurity.

    Receiving constructive feedback should be like looking in a mirror – it’s YOU in the reflection. What you see, with all the blemishes and imperfections, is it. And the mirror is projecting an image that is affected by its attributes (e.g. tinted, perhaps a small crack, some glass imperfections, etc.).

    Understand that the person providing feedback sees you through their personal filters. There is always some bias. It is their PERCEPTION of your style and behavior.

    When receiving feedback, never take it personally and react defensively or in a way that may make the other person regret that s/he provided feedback, or you will not be receiving candid input in the future. And ALWAYS thank the individual for being candid and for bravely sharing their thoughts.

    Work on feedback topics that are expressed by multiple parties. When more than one person identifies the same issue (e.g. that you micromanage) accept that this perception has merit, and look for ways to address it. Changing behaviors is not easy.

    If you are truly dedicated to self-improvement, continue to ask, “How am I doing” from those who provided the feedback. They will appreciate and respect that you are taking action.

    Feedback is a gift; treat it as such and you will become a better person and a better boss.

    Reprinted from

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