Google Project Aristotle: How to build more effective teams
Teams turns strategy into reality. In this article we focus on the inner workings of a team and what it takes to thrive as a business with healthy, happy and highly effective teams.
A Gallup survey found that 45% of actively disengaged employees in Germany would fire their supervisor on the spot if they could. Psychologist Michelle McQuaid’s survey found that 65% of employees in the US would prefer a better boss to a pay raise. A global study by Development Dimensions International revealed that 60% of employees surveyed said their boss had damaged their self-esteem. Another international poll by Monster.com reported that 84% of respondents thought they would do a better job than their manager. These statistics should be dramatic warning signals for managers everywhere.
Before you assume this couldn’t be the case in your company, think about the last time you asked your employees for feedback on your performance. Failure in communication between managers and employees is one of the leading causes of declining job satisfaction and higher employee turnover rates. Gallup’s 2015 report on management in the US revealed that employees whose managers were not approachable were 65% more likely to be actively disengaged. If the last time you asked your employees for feedback was more than a month ago, it’s time to rethink your strategy.
Having an open and fluid communication with your employees is what will make or break your career as a manager. If your employees feel comfortable speaking candidly with you about your performance you’ll be able to identify destructive behaviors, anticipate conflicts within the team and pick up on what they expect from you as their manager.
The constructive feedback you receive may surprise you. Keep in mind that your actions may be sending unintended signals. If you tend to raise your voice when discussing an exciting new idea, your employees may mistake your suggestions for orders. This could make them feel hesitant to offer different opinions.
Similarly, talking with your team regularly can alert you to situations between employees that might require your intervention. If an employee is displaying destructive behavior without your knowledge, it could impact the office as a whole. Cornerstone OnDemand found that having just one toxic employee in a team of twenty can make your best employees 54% more likely to quit, leading to significant replacement costs for the company. Constant outbursts between co-workers can bring morale down and make it difficult to complete team projects.
Furthermore, your employees won’t feel as motivated to implement the feedback you give them if they don’t see you actively trying to improve your own performance. Not being open to criticism yourself makes it a one-sided situation and undermines how your employees see your feedback. Learning how to take constructive feedback well will encourage your employees to do the same.
Even if you are now motivated to receive constructive feedback from your employees, they might not be lining up to give it to you. If you don’t encourage them to objectively assess your performance, your employees’ will most likely not do so on their own. Remember that in most employees’ minds job security is very tightly linked to keeping the boss happy. Losing your temper will only solidify their decision to never give you honest feedback. This means you will also need to learn how to control your emotions. Following these steps will help you get the feedback you need.
Scheduling regular 1:1 sessions with your employees is a good way to get them comfortable with giving you feedback. If they become accustomed to having casual monthly or weekly discussions with you about their performance, they’ll be more likely to feel comfortable giving you honest constructive feedback. Additionally, Gallup’s management report found that employees who have regular meetings with their managers are three times more likely to be engaged than employees who do not. See our blog for further reading on how to run effective 1:1s, and explore ways you can drive more effective conversations with your team.
If you’re still having trouble getting your employees’ to open up, you can start off by offering them the option to give feedback anonymously. You can do this the traditional way by opening a suggestion box and reading submissions on a weekly or monthly basis. Alternatively, you can also use a feedback app that will allow your employees to send you anonymous feedback instantly from their phone. Whichever route you decide to take, make sure to demonstrate to your employees how you’re implementing their feedback. Seeing you take steps to follow their suggestions will encourage them to be more open.
Most employees will feel uncomfortable giving their managers constructive feedback. Asking them the right questions will help you coax out real answers. If you want your employee’s straightforward opinion on an issue, try asking them a yes or no question. If you ask them, “Am I providing you with enough opportunities to develop your professional skills?” they won’t have much room to be vague.
If you want more detailed information try asking open-ended questions. For example, “If you were a manager, how would you support your reports in their professional development process?”
The most important part of getting your employees to give you more constructive feedback is to keep your emotions in check. In asking them to give you candid feedback, you’re inviting them to communicate openly without fear of reprisal. Everyone is prone to becoming emotional or angry when they feel threatened. This feeling can trigger fight or flight warning signs in your brain which result in the tense feeling and increased heartbeat you feel when your start to get angry. If you let your emotions prevail, you’ll be breaking the unspoken agreement between you and your employee and ensure they won’t give you honest feedback in the future.
Remember this is your opportunity to find out what your employees think about your management style and how it can be improved to make them feel more engaged in the workplace. If you start to feel your employees are undermining your authority with the type of feedback they’re giving you, take your emotions into consideration. Think about what they’re telling you, ask questions and analyze whether they’re basing their feedback on opinions or facts.
Think about why your employee is giving you constructive feedback. There are three main reasons that will motivate them to speak with you. The first involves questions concerning their personal career growth. If your employee feels they’re not being challenged enough this may be attributed to a lack of opportunities from your side.
Your employees will also expect you to address major issues in the workplace and encourage a positive atmosphere in the office. For example, if one of your employees is consistently creating a toxic environment with their negative attitude towards others, it’s considered the manager’s job to find a solution and maintain order.
Finally, their feedback may concern your management style in particular. Maybe your employees feel your workload expectations are too high or you’re not easily approachable. Think about how this might be affecting the individual or the team as a whole.
Having seen things from your employees’ perspective, think about ways you could address their feedback. If their feedback concerns professional development, you should consider what you’re doing to help them improve their performance. Remedies to this gap could include coaching, giving more feedback, training, leadership opportunities and giving more assignments that fit their goals and interests. A problem in the workplace may require you to step in to diffuse an office conflict or speak with an employee about their destructive behavior.
A management problem could be more difficult to deal with, as in this instance it’s you that needs to accept changes to your behavior. Remember not to get defensive, even if your actions were merely misinterpreted, what matters is that you realize how it affects your employees and find some way to alter your behavior accordingly. Some common remedies may include adjusting your tone of voice, being more open to employees’ opinions, making yourself available for questions more often and spending more time ensuring your instructions are clear.
Receiving constructive feedback may not always be easy, especially when it comes from your employees. However, it can give you highly useful insights into your employees’ expectations, things that need to be improved in the workplace and how your reports perceive you. Following these steps will help you conquer your emotions and encourage your employees’ to become comfortable giving you more constructive feedback.
If you want to learn more about how to give and receive feedback for a more engaged team, download your free copy of our Manager's Guide to Effective Feedback.
Learn about having the right feedback mindset, giving positive and constructive feedback to employees, and how to recieve positive and constructive feedback – as a Manager.