4 Ways to Get Engaged Feedback From Your Team

Great leaders know they need feedback to be the best version of themselves. Your team members can provide important perspectives to support you in this goal. The challenge is often in helping them feel they can share their viewpoint, particularly if it may differ from yours. You can intentionally build a culture where you encourage open dialogue in all directions, including employee to boss and peer to peer. Here are four ways to get engaged feedback from your team.

1. Ask Open-Ended Questions

Instead of telling your team member all the answers, making statements or offering feedback right away, ask them open-ended questions (i.e. questions that require more than a “yes” or “no”). This leadership style, often referred to as coaching, encourages collaborative dialogue and shows the value of others’ perspectives.

For example, meet with a team member and ask, “How do you feel that meeting went?” instead of immediately sharing your thoughts on it. Then dig a little deeper to understand by asking “What was your process to prepare?”

Want to put this into practice this week?Switch your questions to start with words like: How, When, What—and commit to being curious enough to learn. You will learn much more about the team member’s thinking, and you might be surprised to learn something new about them as a person. My go-to phrase for open-ended dialogue:Tell me more about that.

2. Create Multiple Opportunities for Feedback

It’s always beneficial to get individual feedback in one-on-one meetings. Sometimes you also want to have a sense of how a group feels about a topic. I established quarterly manager meetings on my team, so all managers within my team, not just my direct reports, interact with each other to discuss leadership development and strategize about the team’s vision and activities. I also meet with my full team (of 27) monthly for learning and engagement.

In each of these settings, I make it a point to ask: What do you need to be successful? What needs clarifying?

Taking the time to engage with the team in different venues on a consistent basis provides multiple opportunities for people to speak up. Figure out what will work for your team and create different spaces to maximize the feedback you receive.

3. Find What’s Missing

In a large group setting, it is on the leader to encourage the group to offer their insights, including when they don’t agree. One of my favorite ways to get a group to open up is to ask: What’s missing?

When you ask this question as a leader, you acknowledge that the project/program/idea isn’t complete. This makes your team members feel more comfortable in offering their perspectives. You demonstrate your interest in feedback and that you know that your ideas are not perfect. When your team offers input, they will also feel increased buy-in for the concept.

The “what’s missing” process is especially valuable when preparing to launch a new program or process, so you can develop the best possible solutions.

Side note: It’s okay to not have all the answers as a leader. (Really, it is!) Your team wants to relate to you and feel they are a part of what you are building, so help them do that.

4. Use Collaborative Language (“Yes, And”)

Many years ago, I took a leadership development course that incorporated improv into our training. It was fascinating to learn how an acting technique could improve working relationships and my leadership style, and yet it makes so much sense. Managers have to learn to navigate through unexpected challenges and make decisions to move the company forward, while engaging others in the process and vision.

The instructor introduced the concept of “Yes, and” where you build on whatever was said prior in the conversation. This has now been fully infused in my professional and personal life and has positively changed all communications. It requires you to pay attention and have the mindset to collaborate. This is a powerful technique to introduce to your team so everyone can safely engage in offering their thoughts knowing that others will build on it and have their back. It is still possible to use “Yes, and” effectively and have a different viewpoint. The key is to first show that you value the other person’s contributions. Hint: “Yes, but” is really a no.

Even with the best strategies, it is important for leaders to remember that it’s often hard for team members to offer feedback without a direct invitation. (That doesn’t includeasking for it once six months ago.)It’s on you to be consistent, drive these conversations, and also remember that it will requirecommitment and effort on both sides. 

To truly model to your team that their ideas matter, follow through is everything. You need to be open to implementing new approaches—or at the very least engaging with them and explaining what elements do or don’t elevate the project and why.Seeing their ideas in action is the best encouragement to speak up again in the future.