One cannot manage people, one must manage with people, and we seldom see ourselves as others see us. In "Leadership is an Art," Max DePree presents the idea of a leader as a bus driver. If he doesn't take people where they want to go, they get off. In concert with this, Stephen Covey, in "The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People" stated the 5th habit as: Seek first to understand ...then to be understood. The essence of bringing each of these to pass is communication.

There are endless tomes regarding the proper ways of communicating objectives and providing feedback on performance relating to those objectives. The unaddressed dimension of communication is the feedback from the managed to the manager. To manage you need to know where you stand, otherwise, you will not know where you need to go. There is a real problem in obtaining this type of feedback from employees as they are unwilling to subject themselves to the perceived risk in telling their manager what they really think and feel. There is a way to remove this apparent risk and obtain what may be enlightening feedback.

The technique is rather straight forward. Have the group meet in a conference room where they can write on a white board or flip chart. Tell them you are honestly interested in their feedback as it is essential for group development and success. Indicate you want the group to identify items in the following four categories (group consensus on items not required).

Inform the group they have 30 minutes to develop these items-while you are away. Indicate that when you return you would like the items in each category presented and you are not interested in the origin of the items. You must promise the group you will not debate any of the items and will only ask questions for clarification. Your real purpose is to understand what the group thinks and feels. Remember-perception is reality!



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Copyright © 2004 Gene Bellinger