When it comes to gaining employee feedback for entrepreneurs, there are a lot of easy pitfalls and hard-to-manage areas that cause many budding entrepreneurs to fail in utilizing one of the most vital resources you can gain.

Employee feedback is a vital source of information you can’t squander. If you’re not working with your team effectively, and working with them to do a better job, then your business will ultimately fail. That doesn’t mean you need to bend to every whim thrown at you, but it does mean you need to pay close attention to startup employee feedback.

Traditionally, businesses have relied on the feedback provided through exit interviews to gain this knowledge. However, for startups, it’s vital you know how to get feedback out of your employees in quarterly reviews as well. Oftentimes, feedback provided when an employee is leaving won’t have the best interests of the business at heart.

That is not the case with active employees. Today we’re going to explore five key areas you need to pay close attention to your own behavior, and how you can make use of employee feedback and begin to apply it in the most meaningful way possible. We’ll also look at some key areas to focus on how to pick up on the more subtle feedback that is often provided.

Interest is Key

Entrepreneur asking employees for feedback
Entrepreneur asking employees for feedback

One of the most important areas is your company culture. You need to make an effort to build the foundation of an open and honest culture among your fellow team members.

To begin doing this, start by showing a genuine interest in the people around you. How are they doing, what problems are they struggling with, and how you can help. Ask questions – honest questions – about their environment, workload, and productivity.

Here are examples when you are gauging an employee on this level:
  • How are you coming along with that project?
  • What challenges are you facing?
  • What do you feel is getting in the way of you achieving your goals?
  • What can I provide you with, that will help you overcome this?
  • How can I help you be more productive?
  • It’s okay to be honest with me; what can I do to make these obstacles easier for you?
  • Is this the right task for your skills?
  • Has something gone wrong in the way we’ve managed this task?

These questions are vital to opening up a dialogue around the problems they face, and most importantly, the feedback they have for your business practices. Employees will be much more in-tune with the challenges of your business on the ground level, and their insight will prove far more valuable than your own assessments.

Furthermore, more pointed questions can be asked about you as a person. If you feel that your leadership is getting in the way of your business, or you just aren’t sure, try asking:

  • What can I do to help?
  • Can I do something to better support you in the future?
  • What do you need from me?
  • What can we do differently next time, to make this easier?

Keep an Eye on the Non-Verbal Feedback

Be sensitive to unspoken feedback
Be sensitive to unspoken feedback

As a leader and their boss, you won’t always be able to engage people directly. Quite often, employees will try to fix these problems themselves, and whilst these intentions are rooted in good faith, they can lead to larger problems down the line.

One of the best ways to gauge this is to focus on the non-verbal behaviors of your team members. When you announce a new project, you may notice a few members grow tense, or avert their eyes. Perhaps when discussing a new direction for the business, you’ll see people purse their lips, or suppress a frown.

It’s important not to take this personally, but follow up on this by showing interest. Don’t make them feel as if you’ve caught them; instead, try: “Hey, I noticed you tensed up when I announced the new project. It’s okay, is there something we can discuss to make this easier? Can we plan these projects more effectively?”

Ask for Feedback Directly from Others

This can be a tough one, because you are inviting conflict. However, one of the best methods of getting honest feedback is to ask someone else directly. It’s wise to approach them with an honest, and open demeanor. Show vulnerability, and let them feel comfortable about sharing their honest thoughts.

If you have a senior employee or a mentor within the company, then appeal to them directly. Ask them how you are performing, ask what others think of you, and how you might improve.

This can be a vital source of candid feedback, and a worthwhile resource in improving yourself and your business.

Don’t Get Defensive

Openness to constructive criticism is a good trait in an entrepreneur
Openness to constructive criticism is a good trait in an entrepreneur

This one must seem obvious, but it’s without a doubt the most important on this list. If you react poorly to feedback, then it will close the door to any honest feedback in the future.

If you develop a reputation for not being able to take feedback, then nobody will want to offer this feedback outside of an exit review.

It’s vital you remove your ego from the equation, and remember that this feedback will only make you and your business stronger for it. Don’t allow yourself to react defensively, or brush off criticism.

Even if you feel that the feedback is not helpful, always appear as if you’ve taken it to heart. That will keep this door open for you in the future.

Own Your Mistakes

A big part of getting honest feedback from your team members and employees is to endear yourself to them. The quickest way to do this is to own your mistakes, and be honest about when you screw something up.

You are human too, and people won’t hold it against you for making a mistake. In fact, you’ll find the opposite is true. Employees will see you more as an equal, and be more willing to come forth and share their honest opinions with you.

If you don’t own your mistakes, and instead choose to play the blame game, you’ll very quickly isolate yourself from your team members. This will only turn out badly for you down the line, and close off an important well of wisdom when it comes to your own self-improvement.

How would you react to feedback from your employees? Let us know in the comments!

This article originally published on GREY Journal.