Even if you have an open door, and are constantly asking your direct reports how you can improve, chances are your employees are holding back.
Particularly if you’re generally a great boss, they figure “Why complain? It could be so much worse.”
Most employees we talk with have ideas for how their boss could be more supportive. And yet, when we ask them if they’ve had that conversation with their manager, most of the time the answer is “no.”
In fact, when Karin was teaching a leadership course in a top MBA program, she asked her students if they had ideas on how to improve the effectiveness of their relationship with their manager. As you can imagine, every hand in the room shot up with a lot of knowing chuckles.
And then when she asked how many of her students had shared at least one of those insights with their managers, only one student raised her hand.
If these fast-track (not shy) millennials, serious about their success, were holding back, it’s probably a good indicator that others are too.
And, if you’re like most managers we talk with, it goes the other way as well. You know your relationship with your direct reports could be better. Perhaps you’re not getting the support you need in a particular area. Or communication is breaking down in some way. Maybe you need more ideas or for them to challenge your thinking.
But it’s hard to carve out the time to have that conversation, so you settle for “good enough.”
An Easy Way to Open Up the Communication With Your Direct Reports
We use this tool with managers in some of our long-term leadership development programs to open up two-way communication between leaders and their direct reports. We thought it might be helpful for you too. If you give it a try, we’d love to hear how it goes. Drop us a line at email@example.com.
Why the Tool Works
The tool is designed to reinforce the reciprocal nature of the manager-employee relationship.
It’s not just about what the manager is doing well or could do better, or what the direct report is doing well or could improve.
Both the manager and the employee rate the effectiveness of the relationship on the same dimensions.
The tool is designed to encourage both parties to take responsibility for co-creating the relationship and the results they produce.
How to Use The Tool
- Explain why you think this is an important exercise. It’s important that your direct reports feel safe and know that you are genuinely open to the dialogue. If the basic trust is not yet there, work on that first. This is an advanced communication tool that requires a foundation of trust.
- Ask your direct reports to complete the quick assessment with as much candor as possible before you meet.
- Complete the assessment yourself, based on your relationship with each direct report. (Note, it should be different for each person.)
- Schedule a one-on-one meeting with each of your direct reports to discuss and celebrate where your relationship is working well, and identify areas for improvement.
- Align on one or two specific actions you both agree to do to improve your relationship.
- Schedule the finish. Set up a time in the future (a month or so out is probably best) that you will meet to discuss progress.
You can download the pdf of this tool here.