An abrasive style may have been successful yesterday, but, with the market moving the way it is, more than likely, it will not be successful in the future. To elicit the best ideas from your troops, you need to encourage honest feedback.
A great way to start, is by having weekly 15-minute one-on-one meetings with your direct reports or co-workers on your team, asking the questions: What do you need from me or others to be successful here? What behaviors do I or others engage in that limit your success?
Be prepared for silence. If you continue to ask these questions, eventually your colleagues will tell you what they need from you. More importantly, you will start to see patterns in how others in the organization perceive you and what you must do to change.
By opening up communication, you have shown you are available, so when someone comes to you with a conflict or criticism about your behavior, follow these steps:
- Stop what you’re doing and listen. Give the person your complete attention. If you cannot do that, schedule an appointment as soon as possible.
- Do not get defensive. First restate what the person said to make sure you understood. Say, for example, “Let me make sure I understand what you said. I heard you say that you don’t want me to yell at you when I give you feedback. Is that correct?”
- Apologize if appropriate. If you’re convinced you did nothing wrong, at least say you’re sorry your behavior offended them. A good boss or co-worker should be apologetic if someone else is upset even if they’re convinced the other person overreacted. If you really did do something wrong, own it and apologize.
- Ask what specific behavior the person needs from you in order to work effectively with you in the future. Be certain you focus on behavior, not attitudes or their feelings. You can change your own behavior, but you may never be able to change how they feel.
- Thank them for bringing the matter to your attention and for their courage and honesty. Let them know that you respect and appreciate them for talking with you directly, and that your door is always open.