Ask Around

Some leaders fail to grasp the importance of opinion polling regarding how their team members are perceived. These leaders work from a premise that if they are happy with how their staff members are performing, then things are good…but such is not necessarily so. When a leader is pleased with a staff member’s performance, but many others in the company are not, it is not only the employee who will be damaged – the leader’s credibility within the organization will also take a hit as others increasingly see the leader as clueless.

Good leaders understand the importance of internal politics. They are attuned to how individual members of their staff, as well as the departments they supervise, are perceived by others throughout the company. The method for monitoring this important factor is straightforward: good leaders regularly solicit opinions from a wide array of others regarding the work quality and interaction style of their direct reports. Armed with that feedback, effective leaders can take steps to:

  1. improve the performance of a direct report
  2. improve a direct report’s focus on internal customer service
  3. do a more effective job of advocating for the direct report (e.g., explaining that the direct report is acting on the leader’s guidance or explaining why the unique talent of the direct report is worth some occasional frustration), and
  4. encourage others within the department to improve their PR efforts for the teammate in question.

This “Ask Around” MindSet is most likely to be overlooked when a leader has a close aide or assistant. That individual likely works very well and pleasantly with the leader, but in some instances such individuals will use the delegated (or simply inferred) power of the leader to interact with other staff members in manner that is too forceful, and even authoritarian.

And here is why a leader may not be aware of this dynamic: because other staff members perceive the assistant as having close personal ties to the leader, those other staff members will often be hesitant to express their annoyance for fear of backlash. Even highly skilled leaders can be undermined by this situation if they fail to actively solicit feedback on how their closest direct reports are perceived by others within the organization.

So ask around. Make it a habit of soliciting opinions from others about how they view direct report staff members’ attitude and performance. And don’t just settle for “good” as a response. Ask things like:

• “What’s the best thing about working with Jane?”
• “Are there any challenges reporting to Raymond?”
• “What’s an area in which you think Shonna could improve?”

These types of targeted questions are MUCH more likely to help you round out the full picture of how your employees are really performing – not just for you, but for your entire team.