Recently I was asked by an organizational client to solicit feedback on several of their key leaders, as part of their leadership development effort for these individuals. The question was raised: “What do you think has more impact on developing our leaders: peer feedback, manager feedback, or employee feedback?”
Unequivocally, I believe peer feedback can be the most valuable. It is super tough to fool our peers. They get what we do, and how we need to do it. Our peers have little to lose by being straight with us. They will most often be upfront with what the leader needs to improve, regardless how brutal the feedback may be. Thus, if we are serious about growing and learning, we need to be fearless in soliciting feedback from our peers AND being receptive to their perspective.
Manager feedback can also be useful, as they have “been there, done that” and have experience on their side. Frankly, however, some leaders are very apt at “managing up,” and thus the views from our managers can be skewed and lack authenticity. Direct reports often don’t trust the system, and thus speak only what they think the leader will want to hear. They will play it safe and cave into being found out if they are brutally honest. Depending on a leader’s management style, the direct reports will simply not be forthcoming.
Thus, if we truly want the “straight skinny” we need to ask for input early and often from our peers. We must lower our defenses, embrace the viewpoint, and be grateful we have peers who care enough about our development to actually tell the truth as they see it.