To get honest feedback, leaders need to ask!

Few people would dispute the statement that one of the best ways to discover your strengths and impact as a leader is to ASK!

And yet, studies into leadership behaviours suggest that one of the least practiced leadership behaviours is exactly this – asking for feedback on how his/her actions affect other people’s performance.

Why is this? Sheila Heen and Douglas Stone offer this answer in a recent HBR article. “The [feedback] process strikes at the tension between two core human needs — the need to learn and grow, and the need to be accepted just the way you are. As a result, even a seemingly benign suggestion can leave you feeling angry, anxious, badly treated, or profoundly threatened.”

feedback tension

Improving the way you receive feedback, is going to help you juggle this tension, but in this HBR blog, Kouzes and Posner suggest it is only part of the equation. They suggest forming a ‘trusted circle’ of “loving critics.” “These are people who care about you and want you to do well — and because they care about your wellbeing, they are willing to give you the honest feedback you need to become the best leader you can be.”

They suggest to “turn to them regularly for an honest and caring assessment of your strengths and what you need to do to get even better. Listen to them with the same care they have for you. And when they give you their feedback, your only job at that moment is to say “Thank you.””

Link to HBR blog


June 2015 : Update.

We came across this helpful blog via LinkedIn – it provides some ideas for :

How to encourage your employees to speak up

a) initial ideas are about how to get more feedback

  • Acknowledging the hesitancy – that it can be difficult to provide upwards feedback
  • Asking for feedback regularly – in a variety of situations, including a 1:1
  • Setting a good example by sharing your experiences with providing upwards feedback
  • Providing options to give feedback anonymously

b) the next are ideas about how to make sure this feedback is honest

  • Asking for examples – of what worked and what didn’t, and how things could be better next time
  • Creating a culture of ownership for feedback – all of us in the team have a responsibility to let people know what is working so we can keep doing those things, and we all have a responsibility to flag opportunities for ‘better ways’

The blog then share ideas for how you should respond to the feedback you receive

Here are four things you should pay attention to when receiving upward feedback.

1. Create alignment in interests

2. Separate WHAT from WHO

3. Respect differences

4. Make a commitment (though agreement is optional)

Click here to access link (Source :


Update December 2015

Here is a link to a useful post entitled ‘Receiving constructive feedback as manager from employees’.


Some great specific questions you can ask to seek feedback :

  • If I was to change one behaviour around managing my team, what would that be?
  • What is one area I could focus more on? Or is there an area where I could refocus? (More on, less on?)
  • If you were to give me one piece of advice around how I could improve XYZ, what would that be?
  • Who should I be working more closely with in the business or in my team?
  • What suggestions do you have that I could start doing, stop doing, and / or do more / less of to help me achieve my best / be more effective?
  • What is one thing I could do that would make a big difference to you and your effectiveness at work?
  • What do you think are three strengths of my leadership practice? Where do you think I have an opportunity to improve?