Nobody Tells Leaders When They’re Doing a Bad Job. Here’s How to Do It Right.

Two threads on Hacker News recently have shed light on the utter failures of leadership in tech. The first was an honest topic: aWomen in tech, how do you find non-toxic work environments ?a The second was in response to an article, aWhy Good People Leave Large Tech Companies.a

These threads read like the Inept Executive Handbook a– afailures to address cultural issues, ignorance of the reality of day-to-day life for their employees, mishandling of everything from HR complaints to stock options.

My intention isnat to be unnecessarily hard on executives, all humans are prone to fault, but executives are at the greatest risk of believing a single version of realitya — aour own. I know itas hard to believe, but yes, we often get it wrong.

And if youare relying on your open door policy to maintain a heartbeat on things? Iam sorry, but youare just not doing enough.

The executive title is a funny thing. The higher you ascend in an organization the more isolated you tend to become. It starts getting harder and harder to get a true picture of how effective you are at leading a team.

Executives, if you want the actual truth, you need to stop presuming people will show up to tell you, youare going to have to work for it. Why? Well weare all subject to the peculiarities of human behavior. As a senior leader, you invariably get isolated from an honest assessment of your behaviours. The main reason it happens is fear.

The people in the best position to provide leaders with honest feedback on whatas working and whatas not have the most to lose by providing that feedback.

Even in the most progressive and supportive environments people are reluctant to provide honest feedback on their leadersa — aself-preservation is an exceptionally strong motivator.

Weare trying something a little different at HubSpot to ensure our senior leaders know exactly what theyare doing thatas having a positive impact and whatas not. Thatas where I come in. My task at HubSpot is to be the person that tells executives the things others wonat or canat.

Yes, itas a weird role.

I want to share this process because I believe itas hour for executives to stop expecting that someone will speak up if something needs to change. Itas hour for executives to get serious about honest feedback.

My 3 Step Process for Honest Executive Feedback

1) Identify a broad define of people surrounding the leader in question and conduct in-depth feedback interviews with them.

To get a comprehensive set of feedback I will interview an average of 18 people that interact with the executive being reviewed. I violate the interviewees into the following groups 😛 TAGEND Direct reports/ Team Membersa — anot much rationale require on this one Peersa — athese are people operating at the same level as the executive being reviewed and have a working relationship with that person Associatesa — athese are people that the executive works with cross-functionally to get work done Managera — athatas clearly articulated Selfa — ayup, thatas right, the executive does a self-assessment answering the same the issue as everyone else The first section covers Strengths/ Positive impacts. The second covers What Get in Your Way/ Negative Impacts. The third section is Stop/ Start/ Continue which contains all of the specific advice interviewees when I asked them aIf you could give[ Leader] specific advice to be more effective, what would you tell them to stop doing? What would you tell them to start doing? What would you tell them to continue doing because itas working? a The fourth section is the Self-Assessment. As I mentioned above, the leader receiving the 360 feedback is asked the same questions as the person or persons I interviewed. Their self-perceptions and perspectives are detailed in the report so the executive heads can compare their own point of view to that of those providing feedback.

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