Scared of Feedback From Your Team? That’s a You Issue


Scared Of Feedback From Your #Retail Team? That’s a YOU Issue

One of the biggest challenges I faced when I introduced the Stay Interview Program at work, which includes employee surveys and opportunity for feedback on the senior and executive leadership of the company, was the company leadership’s concern that the feedback would consist of kvetching about “the bosses”. My position was that that would give us the temperature of the team and at least a starting point for culture conversations and programs and where we needed to focus our efforts first. It was the start of this exciting #NewWayToWork – why wasn’t the leadership team more enthusiastic?

After the first installment of the survey’s were returned, I compiled the feedback – categorizing it into the various areas of the business:
-Employee Development
-Company Values
-Customer Experience
…to name a few. We found that our biggest opportunity area was in Employee Development. The team was mostly satisfied with the company leadership and that 86% of our team considered our company a “great place to work”. It was then that I started to have conversations with the executives around their initial concerns. What were they upset about? Why were they so pessimistic about the process? What did they expect to hear?

It was a great opportunity to have conversations with the executives about the caliber of employees that we had in our stores – higher-caliber employees are focused on their growth, they take ownership of their performance, they seek answers and solutions in their area of responsibility. They are less inclined to blame others for their soft performance or excuse their performance. We have some tremendous talent in our stores who, genuinely, like the company, the product, the customers, and believe in the business and the leaders. Their concern was misplaced because they were disconnected from the employees. This was another area for us to focus on and the most important, from my perspective – to assimilate the leadership team with the team that managed the business daily. The level of concern and the general idea that the Employee Survey was going to return fakakta results was based on the fact that the executive team wasn’t giving 100% to the company employees.

In a previous retail life – I remember once being asked, when I was receiving feedback from HR and my boss that they gathered from my team “What do you think your team said about you”. Well, I am a parent and I know that is SUCH a trap question (but that’s how they rolled). But I answered honestly…probably depends on whose PTO I approved most recently and whose I had to push back on. Other than those emotions that bubble up from team members I never was concerned that I wasn’t giving the team 100%. Despite the trap they set, the feedback was great and I was even asked “Weren’t you a little nervous?” – Again, I answered honestly, “No”. Good or bad, I am the perceptions that my team members have of me and I work hard, daily, to show them that my focus is their success.

At the end of the initial round of conversations with the leadership team at my current company here were their concerns:
-We weren’t keeping the employees updated on the status of the company
-We didn’t support them with realistic direction from corporate to field
-We didn’t support their growth at the pace we should
-We didn’t solicit their feedback for efficient operations
-We lacked the desire to take the temperature of the company employees

All of these concerns were “us” – we caused it. We didn’t focus on the things we should have been doing. None of these things existed because our employees weren’t doing something they should have been – but because of something we weren’t doing for our employees.

Feedback is a scary thing for most people but it shouldn’t hinder our finding out how WE are doing. It should have the opposite effect. It should inspire the determination to change, to be better, and to provide more for the employees and, ultimately, the customer experience. If you are terrified of feedback – it is, usually, because you fear your leadership flaws.

The best thing to do…acknowledge it. When I spoke with the company about the first Employee Survey, I told the teams that we absolutely needed their honest and genuine feedback – no matter how unfavorable it may be. We want to provide the best workplace culture for them and we can only do that when we know what we are doing correctly and what were are failing at. The concerns of the executives were baseless, except in the fact that they had to acknowledge their leadership misses. The great thing is that we have been able to improve our culture of transparency – and when concerns pop up from corporate – we take action. No more sitting on our hands hoping to find the time to address it – we address it immediately.

We send out quarterly employee surveys that coincide with our Stay Interview program and today – this process is really enjoyed by everyone at all levels and we look forward to reviewing the feedback and taking action on all the opportunity areas as a collective team.


Founder and Editor in Chief of Excellence In Retail. Published writer. Frequent Podcast Guest. Speaker. Twenty year [oy vey!] retailer. I am passionate about leadership development and workplace culture. 646 246 1380 | [No Sales Contact, please} But it you want to call just to say hello or have a question - that's awesome!

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