The first step to being a stronger leader: Welcome feedback — good and bad

People join companies, but they quit managers.

Leaders at all stages of their careers need to frequently assess their performance to retain top talent, especially as the job market picks back up and top performers are more willing to leave for better opportunities.

Here are a few ways to do that:

Enlist feedback

The first step is to practice more transparent communication.

If employees aren’t comfortable with giving honest feedback, however, another way to gather it is a 360-degree performance review. Managers, subordinates and peers can fill out an anonymous online evaluation form to encourage honest feedback. This will help separate strengths and weaknesses so the appropriate amount of time can be allocated to adjusting specific areas of weakness.

The key is to be open to receiving the feedback … and to be prepared for criticism. As a leader you have to ask yourself, “Do I want to really improve?” Even with the craziest employee, there is usually at least something to learn.

Look at the numbers
Look at how your team has performed compared to how it’s done in previous years. Track data on a daily, weekly, monthly and quarterly basis and compare that quarter over quarter, month over month. Dive into data to gauge performance. Clichés are clichés for a reason, and numbers don’t lie.

Evaluate the processes
Did productivity spike one quarter when a new process was set in place for the team? Find out if something you changed or implemented contributed to the team’s most successful moments. Look for holes in your argument. The reason is sometimes right in front of you. Be observant as a leader and teach your management team to get to know their staff inside the office and out.

Employee performance
While each employee is different, his or her performance can be a reflection of the manager’s effectiveness. Have they transformed for the better, or for the worse? Have they developed a negative attitude? Employees need to know they have accountability, and have a regular one-on-one with their managers. You need to make sure this is happening.

Ask an outsider
Seek out a peer group or join an association with managers in similar roles. Walk through situations and get feedback on what they’d do differently. There are so many peer groups for CFOs, CEOs, CMOs, CSOs, you name it. As a CEO, join Vistage or Young Presidents’ Organization, the peer insight is extremely helpful.

Relationships with staff
Some of the most successful leaders typically have great relationships with direct reports and employees outside of their teams. Leaders should consider whether or not employees from different teams are coming to them for advice, and if they have strong relationships with their direct reports.

Exit interviews
If people are leaving, what is their reason? If it’s pertaining to leadership performance, and that employee is credible and not just venting, then consider making adjustments based on that feedback. In order to do this you need to have a human resources team that focuses on employee relations. Too often HR departments get focused on process rather than employee engagement, retention and development. Emphasize these things as a leader. ●