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Asking for feedback when you're the boss is a fraught enterprise, but it's an essential one in today's business world. Here are a few ways to make the process a smooth, helpful one.

A chief executive at a fast growing tech start-up recently approached executive coach Dave Kashen with an all-too common problem. The CEO frequently reached out to his executive team for feedback, but whenever he sought their opinions, his subordinates seemed to shut down and withdraw.

"It turned out that without even realizing it, my client was undermining the feedback his direct reports were providing," says Kashen. "He thought he was just adding value to their ideas with his own. But every time he jumped on one of their ideas, he was having exactly the opposite effect."

Every interaction between manager and employee has the potential for disaster -- especially when the boss is the one looking for feedback. And the higher up you go in a company, the tougher it is to get honest opinions about your effectiveness as a leader.

"Leaders send out subtle signals that encourage subordinates to mute their criticisms and exaggerate their praise," says Marshall Goldsmith, a pioneer in the field of executive coaching who has worked with more than 100 CEOs of major corporations.

On the flip side, CEOs often find that their suggestions take on a far greater magnitude than what they intended.

"It's called CEO amplification," says Stephen Miles, a vice chairman at Heidrick & Struggles who has coached chief executives of many large global corporations, including Nokia's (NOK) Stephen Elop and BHP Billiton's (BHP) Marius Kloppers. "Employees tend to exaggerate the importance of anything the CEO says."

Yet in today's rapidly evolving, connected company, leaders need to engage and involve the people around them to succeed.

"The traditional hierarchical model of leadership doesn't work anymore," says Goldsmith. "Tasks have grown too complex, and information too widely distributed, for a CEO to solve every problem on his own. The effective leader of today needs to consistently ask for feedback."

So what's a 21st century corporate chief to do?

The first step is to create an environment where employees feel it's safe to be honest and open.

"One of the reasons American auto makers ran into trouble is that their employees were afraid to speak up during product launches when things were going wrong," says John Baldoni, a Michigan based leadership development consultant and author of Lead Your Boss: The Subtle Art of Managing Up.

Baldoni says one of the keys to the recent success of Ford (F) CEO Alan Mullally is that he made it safe for his employees to raise their hands.

One important way to get there is to disengage the feedback process from that uncomfortable and largely useless annual ritual: the performance review.

Dan Pink, the author of Drive, The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us, calls performance reviews, "the West's form of kabuki theatre -- highly stylized rituals in which people recite predictable lines in a formulaic way." This is hardly the place to expect genuine and useful feedback.

If you have to do them, "performance reviews should be formal, and reserved solely for discussions about compensation," says Baldoni, "Whereas feedback should be ongoing and conversational."

So, de-emphasize the review forms and focus on the frequent bits of feedback that actually promote learning. The more you do it, the easier it becomes.

Another effective strategy for a CEO to ensure honest feedback is to set up an easy mechanism to receive it anonymously. Goldsmith conducts interviews with the executive team around his CEO clients, and then collates it and delivers the results. And there are several web-based tools that provide similar services.

"You are never going to get any real information by asking for public, personal feedback," says Goldsmith.

A CEO who signals their belief in the importance of open, honest feedback will create a cascade effect -- a feedback fountain that flows down throughout the organization. The simple act of asking -- and making it safe to respond honestly -- will change the behavior of your team.

"If a CEO is willing and able to separate ideas from the people delivering them, it can be the best thing in the world. You get creative tension without social conflict," says Heidrick & Struggles' Stephen Miles.

Indeed, a recent research study of leadership development programs at eight major corporations, including American Express (AXP) and GE (GE), conducted by Goldsmith and his colleague Howard Morgan concluded that "leaders who discussed their own improvement priorities with their co-workers, and then regularly followed up, showed striking improvement" in their ability to translate their priorities from senior management down through the corporation. Meanwhile, "leaders who did not have ongoing dialogue with colleagues showed improvement that barely exceeded random chance."

In other words, it's not enough just to get feedback. Like working out, if you want to get in shape as a leader, you have to do something about it.

The vice chairman and CEO of India's HCL Technologies, Vineet Nayar, has been universally praised for creating an employee-centric corporate culture. Nayar's HCL Technologies was recently named the best employer in India by human resources firm Hewitt Associates.

"My belief is that I cannot motivate anybody," Nayar recently wrote on his CEO blog. "That is because I believe everybody has to motivate themselves. What I can do is to create an environment that will encourage this… for if management is accountable to employees, it automatically creates a culture conducive to self-motivated employees."






Heidrick & Struggles公司的副总裁史蒂芬?麦尔斯曾经培训过不少大型跨国企业的首席执行官,其中包括诺基亚公司(Nokia)的史蒂芬?艾洛普(Stephen Elop)、必和必拓公司(BHP Billiton)的高瑞思(Marius Kloppers)。麦尔斯指出:“这种情形被称为‘首席执行官放大效应’,员工们很容易夸大首席执行官说的每一句话的重要性。”





约翰?巴尔多尼是密歇根州的一位领导力发展顾问,也是《领导你的老板:管理的微妙艺术》( Lead Your Boss: The Subtle Art of Managing Up)一书的作者。他说道:“美国的汽车制造商陷入麻烦的原因之一,就是在推出产品的过程中,即便有什么事情出了错,员工也不敢开口。”



《驱动力:有关激励的惊人真相》(Drive, The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us)一书的作者丹?品克将业绩评估称为“西方的歌舞伎剧院——一个高度程式化的仪式,人们背诵着不出所料的台词,机械地走走过场。”你很难用这个方式获得真正有用的反馈。







不久前,针对包括美国运通(American Express)和通用电气(GE)在内的8家大企业,戈德史密斯和他的同事霍华德?摩根进行了一项关于领导力发展方案的调研。他们的研究发现,“有些领导人经常把自己的工作重点拿来与同事们讨论,并且定期进行跟进,”对于这些领导人来说,他们都善于将管理层的工作重点从上至下地贯彻到整个公司,而且这种能力还在以惊人的速度提高。而对于那些不经常与同事谈话的领导人来说,他们很难提高这种能力。”


印度HCL Technologies公司的副董事长兼首席执行官维尼特?纳亚成功地建设了以员工为中心的企业文化,因此受到广泛赞誉。该公司最近被人力资源公司翰威特咨询公司(Hewitt Associates)评选为“印度最佳雇主”。

标签:老板 忠言
2011-01-27 09:51 编辑:kuaileyingyu