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Karin’s Leadership Articles

If you’ve bumped into us in an airport over the last 5 years, it’s likely we’ve been carrying a diaper genie. Why? It’s all about how to get and give better feedback. We’ve used this metaphor in so many programs, our son can even deliver it (as seen here in a program where our client requested he perform a cameo–in Bristol England).

Note: If you’ve stumbled onto this post, you’re reading one of my earliest raw insights on having tough conversations that I shared on my blog the very first year I started writing.

I’m not changing the original post below to preserve the journey. But instead will offer some of our more updated thinking on the topic in the video and links below.


Read These For More Insights

Fast Company: This 7 Step Guide to Giving Out Feedback is Completely Idiot Proof

5 Tips for Increasing Worker Morale and Productivity in the New Yea

5 Signs Diaper Drama is Destroying Your Culture

Why Ditching the Diaper Genie Will Reduce Turnover

The Classic: 5 Ways to Get Better Feedback Post That Started It All

Today’s post is a direct response to a subscriber’s question:

I took my first real leadership position when my oldest son was still in diapers. Every time I used our diaper genie, I thought, this is just how this hard feedback works. Each level takes the poop and seals it in a bag before it gets sent to the next level up. Then, that level sanitizes it some more with another layer of protection. By the time it gets to the top, it smells pretty benign.

I would love to hear your thoughts on eliciting candid feedback from your team and stakeholders? How do you get your team to take the risk of saying what needs to be said to those in power? How do you go about it? What suggestions do you have to do this effectively?”

Diaper genies work great for babies but are a dangerous leadership tool.

So how do you get your employees to tell you the truth?

How do you ask for feedback in a way that feels safe?

5 Ways To Get More Feedback from Your Team

Create an Environment of Trust

When I put this question out on my Let’s Grow Leaders Facebook page for insights, Eric Dingler shared:

You have to start with the end in mind. I think the best way is to have a culture of trust to start with. If you have a reputation of being a jerk and closed off to input, no trick will work. Once you have a culture of trust. You can simply ask for feedback. If you don’t feel like you are getting feedback, you’ve probably failed to establish a safe environment.

For more on creating a trusting environment see, A Matter of Trust: Why I Trust You, Why I Don’t.

Model it

I often see managers say to their employees, “I am wide open to feedback,” but then discourage their employees from being open with others above them. Or worse, they model their fear of repercussions. Employees will always listen to what you do more than what you say. If you are open in giving honest feedback to your boss, your team will be more likely to give you truthful feedback as well.


There are many ways to ask for feedback on both a formal and informal basis. I use one-on-ones to do this on a regular basis, so the feedback is casual and frequent. I also ask for feedback more formally during mid-year and end-of-year reviews. Employee surveys can also be good. Read more about feedback in Feedback: Getting Great Insights From People Who Matter.

Respond Elegantly

Start with “thank you.” Always. Watch how you react, not just with your words, but with your face, eyes, and body language. Listen attentively and react calmly, even if you disagree with the feedback. Work to understand the perceptions, even if you know there is more to the story.

Close the Loop

When given the gift of formal and informal feedback, be sure to close the loop. Recap what you heard. If you are going to take action, share that. Circle back and ask for feedback on your progress. Closure helps to build the trust, and encourages future feedback.

Your Turn: What would you add? 

Want more human-centered leaders in the workplace? Share this today!

Want more human-centered leaders in the workplace? Share this today?


  1. Business Coach Steve (@SteveBorek)

    I’m not a fan of the “f” word feedback. It has a negative connotation. I’m working on a substitute. Maybe you or someone else has one.

    Many in leading positions say they want to hear what their constituents really think. Then when someone steps up and speaks their mind, the leader belittles or minimizes the comment as unimportant. Or worse, they unfairly put the person down for no reason at all.

    This type of behavior will encourage an inauthentic team who mask their true feelings.

    • David Dye

      Steve, we see that behavior too. Asking for someone’s input and then getting defensive or rejecting it is worse than not asking at all.

  2. Eric Dingler (@EricDingler)

    Thanks for sharing Close The Loop. I need to work on this one more. I appreciate the personal challenge to grow I get from your blog.

  3. letsgrowleaders

    Steve,now that sounds like a good challenge….I would love to hear more about why you dislike the word… and then maybe you and I can work together to solicit input for a replacement? That could be fun…. if anyone is reading this and something comes to mind please weigh in….. Do you dislike the “f” word? Why? What would be better?

  4. letsgrowleaders

    Eric, you are adding so much to the conversation through your comments. It’s so much fun to deepen the dialogue.


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Karin Hurt

Karin Hurt helps human-centered leaders find clarity in uncertainty, drive innovation, and achieve breakthrough results.  She’s the founder and CEO of Let’s Grow Leaders, an international leadership development and training firm known for practical tools and leadership development programs that stick. She’s the award-winning author of four books including Courageous Cultures: How to Build Teams of Micro-Innovators, Problem Solvers, and Customer Advocates and Powerful Phrases for Dealing with Workplace Conflict, and hosts the popular Asking For a Friend Vlog on LinkedIn. A former Verizon Wireless executive, Karin was named to Inc. Magazine’s list of great leadership speakers. Karin and her husband and business partner, David Dye, are committed to their philanthropic initiative, Winning Wells – building clean water wells for the people of Cambodia.

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