Management Practices

What Your Employees are Afraid to Tell You

Neil Ducoff | July 10, 2011 | 2:14 PM
Neil Ducoff, founder and CEO of Strategies

This communication blockage is more common than you think. In fact, there's a darn good chance that you have employees in your own company who need to tell you things that you need to hear – but can't. Even your most trusted and loyal employees are probably holding back. Why? The answer is summed up in one word: fear. Fear for their jobs. Fear that it could send you off on one of your tirades. Fear that your feelings will be hurt.


It is imperative that owners create an environment where open communication on sensitive issues can occur without fear. More importantly, to be an authentic no-compromise leader, you need to be open to constructive feedback from employees. That's how you get better. That's how you mature as leader and build trust.


Here are some get-it-done strategies to hear what you need to hear:


  • Leadership team meetings. Put feedback on your performance on the agenda. Let team members know that you need their feedback in order to be the best leader for them and the company.


  • Performance reviews. Make "Where can I improve to support you better?" part of every employee performance review.


  • Cool your jets. A leader's instant defensive posturing to employee feedback is the most cited reason employees give to avoid initiating a conversation with their leaders. Rather than going defensive and shutting down the dialog, acknowledge how much you value the employee's willingness to share feedback with you.


  • Listen. Don't talk – just listen: Allow the employee to speak. Encourage them to go deeper with statements like, "This is important for me to hear, please explain more."


  • Get it all out. Before the conversation ends, ask, "Is there anything left unsaid?" This is one powerful question that ensures that everything has been placed on table for discussion.


  • Change. The worst thing you can do is listen, encourage, give hope – then do nothing to change your own behavior and performance. Compromising leaders live in a world of entitlement and denial. No-compromise leaders adapt, grow and build a culture of trust.


Got more questions? Feel free to email me at

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