Upward Feedback: How can I help?

“People don’t leave bad jobs, they leave bad managers.”

We’ve heard this over and over again, and it’s true. But the reverse is also true – people stay for great managers. Now more than ever, in this employee-driven labour market, we need our people to stay. We also need them to be engaged and productive, and the role of the manager in making this happen is crucial.

Feedback is one of the key drivers of employee engagement, and it is fully within the manager’s sphere of influence to give and receive meaningful and ongoing feedback.

Good managers are open to receiving feedback from their employees. Great managers want feedback. They seek it out and ask for feedback in order to not only listen, learn and grow themselves, but also to ensure they are providing the required support and guidance their employees need to be their best.

Saying to your employees something along the lines of: “I’m open to feedback at any time,” is not good enough. As a manager you cannot rely on your employees to voluntarily provide you with feedback. The power differential makes this too difficult, as employees can feel they have a lot to lose (including their jobs) by offering up feedback without being explicitly asked for it.

It is up to the manager to create an environment where giving upward feedback is safe, welcomed, and results in observable improvements and change in how the manager leads. To create this environment or “culture of feedback”, managers need to ask for feedback on a regular basis. Once a year at the annual performance review is not enough. Any time you give feedback to your employees, you should ask for it as well.

Demonstrating vulnerability by asking for feedback from your employees improves relationships, builds trust, and ultimately leads to higher levels of engagement, performance and growth, for you, your employees and your organization.   

To focus upward feedback on how managers can best support their employees, these questions are a great starting point:

  • What can I do to be a better leader for you?
  • How can I support you on this project/initiative/process?
  • How can I help you succeed?
  • What is something you’ve been wanting to tell me, but have been holding back?

Kwela’s Coaching for Performance course delves further into giving and receiving feedback, coaching conversations and more.

Helen Schneiderman, Partner