When was the last time you wondered how your team really feels about you as their leader? Does the thought of finding out evoke curiosity or give you a pit in your stomach?
If you dread getting feedback, you’re not alone. In fact, even the most seasoned leaders can feel self-doubt about it at first. (Rest assured- it gets easier the more you do it!).
And though it may be tempting to avoid, Founder Feedback is actually one of the most important elements of your leadership practice.
Why? Quite simply, it’s the best way to know what you do that brings your team high energy, and what may take it away.
In extreme cases, leaders resort to getting feedback when either they as the founder- or their team- have reached a breaking point. They have no other choice but to find out what’s at the root of the friction.
But if you make Founder Feedback a regular leadership routine, it’ll never be a lagging indicator of what’s not working.
In fact, think of the data as a leading indicator — of what makes your team feel inspired and motivated, as well as potentially distracted or drained.
Here are 6 things you’ll discover through a high quality Founder Feedback process:
1. You’ll see yourself through your team’s eyes.
As human beings, we normally only see ourselves and our actions through our personal set of filters. We create our unique lens from our life experiences, which in turn shapes our beliefs, assumptions and interpretations.
In contrast, your team’s feedback enables you to view yourself through their lens. You can see how others experience you and can compare your team’s perceptions against your own. Why is this change of perspective so important? Because your success as a leader is directly correlated to whether they believe you motivate, inspire and align them.
2. You’ll discover the strengths you undervalue.
Many of us — especially those who battle self-doubt — can overemphasize our shortcomings and undervalue our strengths. Quite simply, we don’t believe our talents and gifts are as exceptional as others do. By seeing yourself through your team’s eyes, you can appreciate the exact ways in which you positively impact your team. This will allow you to draw on those natural strengths more intentionally, especially at crucial moments.
One founder who recently went through this process discovered that his honesty and sense of humor were key to getting the team through an intense funding round and product pivot. While he knew he possessed these qualities, he didn’t realize how profoundly it helped the team get re-energized and inspired during a dark period.
3. You’ll learn about your blindspots.
Like the strengths that we undervalue, we’re often unaware of our behaviors that get in the way of our true goals. During these moments, our style under stress can get activated and cause us to act less consciously and intentionally. And what we communicate- verbally and nonverbally- has an outsized impact on the person receiving it. Left unaddressed, blindspots can become one of the biggest blocks to long term success.
A founder with a passion for debating ideas learned that some on her team felt she needed to win these discussions at any cost. They felt put down by her tone and that their ideas weren’t valued. With this insight, the founder was able to make some small adjustments to her approach to create a more productive outcome.
4. You’ll understand your full impact on the team.
By getting input from multiple people, Founder Feedback creates a composite view of how you influence the team. You’ll understand how your presence affects their collective ability to create, share ideas, collaborate, problem solve, and express different points of view. Then you can intentionally choose approaches that best motivate your team.
A founder’s team sensed him shift into intense command mode whenever a timeline slipped. During these moments, he tended to make abrupt decisions that caused huge changes to people’s existing priorities. His intensity also elevated the team’s stress level, making it harder to focus on getting things done at an especially important time. The feedback motivated him to get help to manage his stress more productively.
5. You’ll gauge the team’s alignment.
How is your team interpreting your key messages? Are they excited by your new strategy or concerned about the pivot? This is your chance to understand how your team is responding to your story about where the company is going and what you want them to know, feel and do.
One founder learned that his team hadn’t entirely bought into his decision to launch a new product channel. Based on their feedback, he realized he had to spend more time providing context about the opportunity in order for the team to feel as confident about it as he did.
6. You’ll measure the level of trust in your culture.
The quality of the feedback you receive indicates how safe your team feels to share what they really think. This depth of honesty is a crucial marker of company culture; if your team filters their opinions, then you can’t fix their issues. Which means the issues will likely fester and eventually erode morale, retention and productivity.
One founder learned that her new Product lead was feeling his skills were underappreciated. He was even starting to question whether he should have taken the job. Because her Product lead had been completely candid, the founder was able to immediately address his concerns and get them aligned.