Feedback is a two-way street. So often managers think of their employees as being the only ones who should receive feedback. To be an effective manager, you should also ask and receive feedback from your staff. It provides the opportunity for you to grow into a more effective management and leadership role.
Accept positive and negative feedback. Keep in mind that not all feedback will be positive. In fact, managers should ask for areas of developmental opportunities. We don't see ourselves as others see us. Hearing about our own imperfections is difficult, yet we expect our employees to do it all the time. Set a good example by listening to the positive and negatives.
Ask for clarification, but don’t be defensive. If an employee is coming back to you because they don’t understand a project – ask for clarification on what they don’t understand. “I’ve explained it to you clearly, I don’t understand what you don’t get,” is not the best response. Ask them to explain what they understand the project involves. Clarify that you understand their questions and concerns, and then provide the answers they need. You may think they need the entire project re-explained when, in fact; their question can simply be about the deadline.
Check for understanding. Once you have explained an idea or concept to an employee, ask for more information. “Was the information I provided useful.” “Does this make sense?” These are two simple questions which can clear up any future misunderstandings right from the start. You may make perfect sense to yourself. You know the steps, the goals and the outcomes. Your staff may not be privy to all of the same information. Before the employee walks out the door, check for understanding. This simple step can save a lot of frustration and misunderstanding in the future.
Prepare for the backlash from the conversation. If you received feedback and successfully offered explanations of why things are the way they are; or decide to make changes as a result, be prepared for the employee to still have an issue. Often times an employee will seem perfectly agreeable while they are in your office. Once they leave, however, they may decide to express their true feelings to their peers. Suddenly the calm conversation you thought you had has morphed into a gossip-fest with you as the villainous star. Sometimes it can be a simple word, taken out of context. Keep a listen out for any repercussions from the employee; subtle changes in performance, attitude or sly comments from their peers. If you notice any type of changes, give it a few days. If the problem persists, you may want to call the employee back into your office and go through the steps again.
Remember, how you handle feedback is critical to your success as a manager. All eyes will be upon your reaction.