Zed Williamson

How to Get More Honest Feedback from Your Office Staff

Find out how to increase your team’s capacity for constructive, learning-focused dialogue and better prepare for crisis communication.

No one likes having difficult conversations, but they’re necessary for growth. The problem is, many leaders mistake nervous head nods and silence for real acceptance and understanding.

Others may recognize a communication breakdown is happening, but they don’t know how to encourage everyone on their team to actively participate in key discussions.

As part of the Growth-Driven Practice Series, we recently hosted a webinar about conversational capacity – a given group’s ability to have constructive, learning-focused dialogue about difficult subjects in challenging circumstances – with guest presenter Craig Weber, founder of The Weber Consulting Group. Craig is instrumental in helping you find ways to assess the health of your practice’s internal communication and crack open tough dialogue that will propel your practice forward.  

Want to watch? Click here to view the webinar recording.

While the topic may seem simple at first, it can rapidly transform your staff’s capacity to handle crises, deal with change, and talk about growth. Let’s dig in further.

Bosses Have It Tough—Doctors Have It Tougher

Studies have shown that conversational capacity lowers in a workplace whenever the boss enters the room. That’s not surprising—no one wants to open their mouth and say the wrong thing to the individual who holds the most sway over the trajectory of their career.

But when the boss also so happens to be a doctor, conversational capacity is practically doomed. That’s because society holds doctors in high esteem, and rightfully so.

No one wants to call out a doctor… “How could they ever be wrong? They’re a doctor!”

Office managers, clerks, and other supporting staff can be incredibly hesitant to share their ideas on how the business can run smoother; they might be shivering in the shadow of your M.D.

That’s why it’s up to you as the leader of your practice to set the tone of openness.

“Leave your ego at the door” is a motto you must live by if you expect to run a growth-driven practice.  If you’re more conscious of how people perceive your position, you’ll be better equipped to spot moments when those around you seem too nervous to speak up.

Candor + Curiosity = the Conversational ‘Sweet Spot’

What does high conversational capacity actually look like? Imagine a ‘sweet spot’ where constructive, learning-focused dialogue exists. That sweet spot is possible to achieve through a delicate balance of two qualities: candor and curiosity.

A healthy level of candor means saying the things that need to be said—even when others are afraid to. It’s no-nonsense straight talk that keeps the conversation moving forward, but it’s always as respectful as it is direct.

A healthy level of curiosity means showcasing genuine interest in other points of views. You’re open to any ideas that might move the needle forward—not just your own ideas. It’s the humility that allows for new perspectives to be brought to the table.

What candor looks like in action:

  • Sticking with ‘BLUF.’ That wonderful little acronym means ‘Bottom Line Up Front’—and it’s a timesaver. When you’re ready to share a new idea or respond to someone else’s, you need to cut to the chase. Don’t leave anyone guessing as to what your take on the situation Is. “Here’s what I think...”
  • Showing your work. Simply stating your opinion isn’t enough. You need to explain how you arrived at that view. Otherwise, people might raise counterarguments that have nothing to do with your actual point. “Here’s what I think… and here’s why…”

What curiosity look like in action:

  • Inviting pushback. If you’re truly justified in your approach to something, then that approach should be able to survive feedback. As a leader, think about the ways you can  open the floor for your employees to voice concerns or criticisms. Surrounding yourself with ‘yes’ people won’t help you to grow your practice.
  • Making genuine inquiries into any pushback you receive. Inviting pushback does no good if you just defensively restate your own position or dismiss the someone’s comment right away. Try responding with something like, “How did you arrive at that view?” or, “Let’s explore that a bit further. What did you mean by that exactly?” The key word here is ‘genuine’ because the right question asked with the wrong tone can implode a meeting.

It seems straightforward – why is it so hard?

Notice how earlier we stressed healthy levels of curiosity and candor. That’s because any sort of imbalance between these two components can set off a chain reaction in your business.

One person choosing to respond unconstructively could cause three people in a meeting to shut down—and two others to not shut up.

Too much candor is how lines get crossed, feelings get hurt, and egos flare up. There’s a colossal difference between being honest and being an arrogant jerk with nothing meaningful to add to the mix.

Not having enough candor is how grave errors happen and practices fall short of their goals.

Fear is a powerful thing, and it can prevent us from doing what we know is right. The fear of looking stupid, ‘stepping on toes,’ or being made an example of is why many employees shut down in meetings.  

Creating a safe space for candor and curiosity

As social creatures, we often want to backpedal when the room gets tense, but tension is sometimes unavoidable. Instead of trying to avoid tension at all costs, you should be sending a clear message to your team that:

  • There are no consequences for honest input.  
  • The only way to deal with issues is head on, even if doing so feels a bit awkward.  
  • Each person’s unique perspective is valid.
  • The goal is to get better—not bitter.

You can’t snap your fingers and make others communicate with candor and curiosity, but you can wield your position wisely to create a comfortable environment for effective problem-solving.

After all, if you don’t lead your practice in balancing curiosity and candor, who will?  

Increase your conversational capacity – watch the webinar!  

This article is just a snippet of Craig Weber’s value-packed presentation as part of our Growth-Driven Practice Series.

For more resources to grow your practice, browse the library of resources available through the Growth-Driven Practice Series.