By Spencer Rule

Feedback is a grinding wheel to help you constantly sharpen your ideas, processes, communication, and leadership. Without feedback, we are vulnerable to becoming dull and less effective as leaders.

Stop and listen.

You’ll discover useful new insights and learn incredible lessons. Here are a few situations when it’s a good idea to ask your employees for feedback.

1. When they are doing awesome.

Instead of just giving them praise, ask them for feedback about what led them to do the awesome thing. You’ll be amazed at what you can learn through this process. I had a boss that used to sit down and try to learn everything they could about what created “wins” for the team and the company. At first, I thought this was odd because I had never experienced it. After seeing all the things it helped her uncover, it was one of the smartest management lessons I learned from them.

2. When they aren’t doing awesome.

Sometimes the best way to help an employee who seems to be struggling improve their performance is to simply ask them for feedback on ways you can help them work better. Attendance issues? Simply ask them about it and tell them you want to help them. When they see you want to help them, they will be motivated to improve and fix the issues that might be holding them back.

3. When you’re rewarding them.

Ask them how they’d like to be rewarded . If you’re going to reward your employees, you might as well spend the money and effort on something that will have the maximum impact. Before you buy that $10 lunch for them, make sure the $10 Amazon card wouldn’t have made them ten times happier. It’s a small step with huge potential impact.

4. When you notice they’re unhappy.

You might be able to guess why one of your employees is unhappy. But, that guess might also be completely wrong. Pull them aside, ask them if everything is okay and if there’s anything you can do to help lift their spirits. Sometimes it’s related to work, sometimes it’s not. Either way, asking will only improve the situation and help them feel supported.

5. When you’re one-on-one.

Employees are more likely to share candid feedback with you when they don’t have to do it in front of a group of their peers. Have a couple minutes of downtime with an employee? Try asking them a question instead of talking about the weather. In a performance review? That’s a great time to ask them how things are going from their point of view.

6. When a customer complains.

If you’ve ever worked in any position that is customer facing, you know that the saying “the customer is always right,” is actually not true. Sure, try to treat the customer like they are always right when they are present, but don’t sacrifice your employees in the process. After a customer complains, approach your employees that were directly involved in the situation and ask them for their feedback on what happened. Give them a chance to share their experience.

7. When you’re seeing high turnover.

Have you noticed your turnover is unusually high lately? The best way to fix this is by going to your team and asking them for ideas to help lower turnover in the future. The employees who left almost always spill the beans about what was bothering them before they leave. Your employees know the answer. Just make sure they feel safe to share it with you.

8. When the schedule is completed, weekly.

Were your employees happy with the previous schedule? What should you try to change for the next one in order to keep them happy and engaged? Your schedule is a huge tool to help you improve employee sentiment and engagement. But, it’s impossible to improve it unless you ask your employees for direct feedback related to it. Ask them and make changes where you can.

Final Thoughts

Try to make asking your employees a habit that you practice daily. Listen more, talk less. Leaders are often afraid to ask because they are afraid they will be obligated to accommodate whatever they hear back from their employees. In reality, simply the act of listening to the employee fixes a lot of issues.

Sometimes you won’t be able to fix the issue they bring up. That’s okay. Keep asking questions. Maybe the only thing they’ll have to say is that you’re doing an awesome job. It’s not easy being a boss. But, you can make it easier by improving how you ask for and use feedback.