Q&A Monday: How to get honest feedback


I am the manager of  several large technology products for my company, and I feel like I’m just not getting honest feedback from the people involved with the project.  While the projects seem to be going well, I would appreciate it if I could get honest feedback and make sure the projects are a success, any suggestions?

Steven Bowman

Overland Park, KS


Depending on your management style this is either and easy task, or something that you will need to work on.  Plus I’m sure this is a question, that everyone has their own opinions on.  To be honest, I think that honesty and different opinions is what can make a project a success.  There are generally 5 things I like to keep on my mind when working through projects where I want to get real feedback.

  1. Hand out anonymous surveys
    Most people underestimate the power of the anonymous survey.  It gives your employees a chance to tell you what they are thinking about, without having to worry about sounding dumb in front of co-workers or their boss.  These should be quick surveys (not 50 questions) and done fairly often.  It’ll help you judge if everyone is on the same page.
  2. Get a Devils Advocate
    Anyone who thinks that they alone have all the answers, isn’t looking for feedback.  I like other people to suggest alternative ways to get something done, and this helps make sure the project gets done in a complete manner with everything thought through.  Plus this will show your employees that you are open to discussion and debate and will be more willing to give you honest feedback.
  3. Visit their Offices
    If your business has multiple locations, make sure you take some time and visit their locations.  I’ve had managers who said they care about my site, but never came, which told they don’t really care.  Take time to get some face time with the people working on the project with you, they are far more likely to be open with you one on one.
  4. Show another side of yourself
    Most employees would secretly say that their boss is uptight.  Luckily I’ve had a good run of bosses where that wasn’t the case.  That’s not to say that my bosses were all laid back, far from it, but they had times where they were tough when needed and more friendly when looking for comments.   Make sure your employees see a more personable side of you, and you’ll see they’ll be more willing to open up.
  5. Check in with them
    This is a simple one, just take time to walk into their office and have an informal talk with your employees.  This touches on a lot of the points I make earlier, a one on one conversation makes the employee more likely to talk openly with you.  The informal nature makes you more appear softer and more likely to take their opinion, because you are on their turf.
Now I’m sure you’ll have you own, and I’m always willing to hear what works for you and your groups.  I like to take the more laid back approach and make sure they feel comfortable coming to me with ideas.
If you have any questions that you want Jim to answer, from business servers to home computers, drop him a line at me@jimguckin.com, and he’ll try to answer your question. Check back every Monday for a new Question and Answer session, and during the rest of the week for his other technical insights.

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