When the financial crisis hit in 2008, several people I know moved all their money out of the market, accepting huge losses in exchange for security. Almost all of them would have done vastly better if they had stayed the course and kept making regular investments into retirement accounts, reaping benefits when the market recovered.
Every financial professional we’ve ever worked with has advocated a long-term strategy. Those who buy when the market is booming and sell when the stock market panics almost always lose. In contrast, consistent investments regardless of the day’s news generally do much better over time.
Like sound financial advice, investing in people works best over the long-term. Many years ago, I received this question during a training class I was instructing on communication:
I’ve been trying some of these skills at home, and now my wife is accusing me of just being nice to her in order to complete my class assignments. How should I respond to that?
I asked him if he was indeed being nice to her only for the class. Let’s just say that I didn’t get a very convincing “no.”
Managers make this mistake too. They ask people for feedback right after a remarkable win for the group. They work hard to listen well to employees the two weeks prior to the annual employee satisfaction survey. They engage consistently with employees when the big boss is in town.
But they put it on the back burner the rest of the time.
Almost everyone has good intentions, but most miss the key to getting honest feedback from others:
Just like the wife who is suspicious of the husband’s sudden charm and the employees who are suspicious of the manager who engages them only in front of the big boss, people don’t take us seriously the first few times we try to solicit honest feedback.
The key is what we do next.
If you keep asking, you’ll eventually get more honesty. Make regular time to follow the advice of Tom Henschel, an expert executive coach who recently appeared on my podcast, to ask one of these three questions:
- What should I stop doing that’s not working for you?
- What should I start doing that would help you do your job better?
- What should I continue doing that you’ve found helpful?
Pick one of these questions and make time this week to ask. Then, next week do the same. A month from now? You guessed it. Ask again.
You won’t hear at the start – or even the first few times. Yet, starting now is essential since it lays the foundation of trust and honest feedback weeks and months from now, when you may really benefit from it.
[reminder]What can you do to make asking for feedback a consistent action in your leadership?[/reminder]