Feature in Ratchet and Wrench Magazine - June 2023
Steve Jobs may have been best known as the co-founder of Apple Computer and a great entrepreneur, but his style of leadership and management was highly controversial. Jobs would schedule meetings with his team, then randomly point to someone and ask, “Tell me what’s not working at this company?” After that person gave their opinion, he would then turn to the group and ask for everyone’s feedback. Then he would point to another person, and say, “Tell me what is working?” While his technique may appear divisive, Jobs placed a high value on getting valuable feedback. Which meant that he had to know the truth, no matter how ugly it might be.
For most people, it’s difficult to receive critical feedback. No one enjoys learning that we dropped the ball, or that something isn’t going right. And how often does an employee walk up to you, and pull you aside to inform you of bad news? Not very often, right? While receiving praise and recognition does motivate us, growth opportunities also exist when things go wrong. How we deal with adversity and bounce back from failure tells us a lot about our mental toughness. Great success is never dependent on everything going right all the time. That’s not reality.
Look at it this way: getting only good news all the time is mostly useless. On the contrary, bad news can be good news. And we should accept and welcome it. If employees are reluctant to bring you bad news, it’s an indication that they may fear confronting you. As the shop owner, you need to do a little self-reflection to ensure that you are a leader that is approachable, and not on the defensive when an employee wants to sit down and discuss things. Be mindful of how you interact with others too. Your body language and the tone of your voice will either draw people to you or push them away.
Make it known that you want to create a work environment where feedback, especially when things go wrong, is accepted and welcomed. Remember, if people fear bringing you bad news or only tell you the good things, you may not have an open environment where people feel they can discuss all issues, good and bad. It’s also important to realize that to give critical feedback to others, you must be open and willing to receive critical feedback.
At the start of any team meeting, let your employees know that you will be asking for everyone’s opinions on ways to improve. Emphasize that you want to hear not only what’s going right, but also where the company is failing. People’s opinions may not be shared by everyone, but one’s perspective is their reality. We need to listen to all voices. Be transparent and let everyone know that you will listen to everyone and do your best to act on everyone’s feedback. Another thing to be aware of; don’t allow an atmosphere that encourages gossip or venting. This will promote negativity and bring down morale. You need honest, healthy feedback that everyone can accept and learn from.
The bottom line? The next time someone brings you bad news, look them straight in the eye, smile, and say, “Thank you!”