How to Get Honest Feedback When You’re in Charge

If you are the leader of a team or the boss of an organization, you know how important it is to get honest feedback from your employees. If you want to build a company culture of open communication, growth, and success, you need to know what you are doing well and what you could improve. After all, feedback is instrumental in helping you become more self-aware about your leadership skills or more aware about the strengths and weaknesses of your team or organization.

But here’s the thing: your employees probably don’t like giving the boss feedback, especially if it’s negative. If you have ever tried to get honest feedback as a leader, you know just how difficult that can be. Your employees probably don’t like giving the boss feedback, especially if it’s negative. They may fear losing their job or shot at a promotion, and they certainly don’t want to get on your bad side. But that negative feedback is most important to identifying areas of improvement and room for growth.

If you’re in charge, how can you help your employees or team members give you the honest feedback that you need? Here are three essential things you need to do to get honest feedback.

Ask For It

Let’s face it — people probably aren’t going to walk up to you and give you feedback, especially when you’re the leader. You need to let them know that you want to hear what they think and why you are asking for it. Do you want to know what you could do better? Tell them. Are you looking for their opinions on the company’s new communication system? Tell them. Explain to them that you need honest feedback in order to grow. If you give them a reason why you are looking for feedback, you give the feedback purpose and focus. A general direction provides a starting point for the person giving feedback, hopefully making it easier for them to agree to giving honest feedback.

Ask for Examples

Examples strengthen feedback. They allow you to better interpret what the person is saying and provide a general guideline to evaluate your actions. With an example, you have a situation to look back on and determine what you could have done differently or better given the person’s feedback.

Examples also hold the people giving feedback accountable. When people can give details and examples, it probably means that they are giving more honest feedback. If you want honest feedback, you need to be able to pinpoint exact situations where something went well or something didn’t go so well. If someone starts broad and tells you that you don’t run meetings well, ask them how you don’t run them well and ask for an example to help you apply the feedback.

Do Your Part

Once you have asked for feedback, it’s your turn to act. Make sure to thank them for their contribution and time. If they offered negative feedback, assure them that it was helpful and that you appreciate their honesty. Explain to them what you learned from their feedback and why it was important.

Once you’ve gotten the feedback, reflect on what they said and the examples they gave. It’s important to note that not everyone will be honest, so they may not have offered any real negative feedback. But chances are that they identified some common themes or areas of improvement, even if they did so indirectly. It’s up to you to look for those cues and ask follow up questions or seek clarification.

Finally, make sure you act on the feedback. You can ask for suggestions on how to improve, but it is most important that you show to your employers that you listened to their feedback and are taking steps to grow. Overtime, this will help ensure honesty in feedback, as they will find that you listen to the feedback without repercussions.


Not everyone will give honest feedback, and it may take awhile to create a culture for honest, negative feedback when you are the leader. Start with a few trusted colleagues, implement these three strategies, and work to create a culture of honest and open communication. Soon, you’ll have more honest feedback which you can use to continue to develop yourself professionally.