January 2018

Ask Your Team to Rate Your Leadership

By Ed Ruggero

Does the idea of being rated by your team make you a little anxious? What if the feedback could help you keep your best people, reducing both your stress levels and expensive employee turnover?

As detailed in this Wall Street Journal article, the 5,300 employees of the software company Kronos rate their supervisors on "managerial behaviors the company identified as playing the biggest role in motivating its employees."

Modeled on techniques used at other successful companies, the approach uncovered an important correlation: "managers' scores were a strong indicator of how likely their direct reports were to leave or remain at the company."

Team members responded to questions such as, "my manager empowers me to make decisions" and "I have the flexibility to balance my work and personal life."

The results were remarkable, though perhaps not totally unpredictable.

Employees who respond negatively to these questions about their managers are five times more likely than others to leave the company.

Soliciting this kind of specific feedback from your team takes courage, but also gives you the information you need to create or adjust a personal development plan. Does your team find you abrupt? Stuck in the past? Too slow in making decisions? It's time to address those behaviors.

This does not mean that you'll change everything; there may be good reasons behind some of your behaviors, but you must be willing to explain yourself. For instance, maybe you've been burned recently after making a too-hasty decision. It could be that you've become more patient; it could also be that you're spooked. It's OK to talk to your team about your attempts to strike a balance, to make sure the pendulum has not swung too far in one direction or another.

Suppose you overcome your reluctance and get less-than-flattering feedback; what should you do with the results?

  1. Respect your team for offering their opinions. It takes courage to be honest. If your team is afraid to have a difficult conversation with you, that is a significant problem that needs to be addressed.
  2. Invite an open, respectful conversation with employees about the results. You must be genuinely interested in their opinions and open to the idea that you can grow and improve. If you're not—if you get defensive, if it becomes obvious that you asked their opinions just to check the box next to "look how progressive I am," if you really aren't interested in changing—that's a sure recipe to boost employee cynicism.
  3. Be honest about your willingness to attempt change while acknowledging that change is often difficult. There's nothing wrong with going after the low-hanging fruit first.
  4. Don't be afraid to ask for help. (One executive wrote in her leadership philosophy, "Under pressure I can be abrupt. It's OK to remind me to keep working on this.")
  5. Seek coaching, training and mentoring to create and follow-through with a development plan.

The best teams have a continuous improvement mindset about leadership and team interaction. Writing and sharing a personal leadership philosophy can help jumpstart those conversations. Asking your team to rate your performance, even informally, can put you on the same path to a better functioning organization.

If you enjoyed this discussion of how to create high-functioning teams, consider joining us for The Gettysburg Leadership Experience, where we use history to figure out why some leaders and organizations thrive and others fail.

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Ed Ruggero is the co-author of The Leader's Compass: A Personal Leadership Philosophy Is Your Foundation For Success. He is also the creator of the Gettysburg Leadership Experience.