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Business Leader Elicits Brutally Honest Feedback

After interviewing business leaders at over 100 companies, the authors of a 2012 Harvard Business Review article concluded: "Smart leaders today … engage with employees in a way that resembles an ordinary person-to-person conversation." According to the authors, an essential part of "ordinary person-to-person conversation" involves listening well and getting honest feedback.

They use the following story as an example: James E. Rogers, the president and CEO at Duke Energy, instituted a series of what he called "listening sessions." In a series of three-hour meetings, he invited the people he led to raise any pressing issues. He also asked for their brutally honest feedback about his own leadership performance. The authors of the article wrote:

He asked employees at one session to grade him on a scale of A to F. The results, recorded anonymously, immediately appeared on a screen for all to see. The grades were generally good, but less than half of the employees were willing to give him an A. He took the feedback seriously and began to conduct the exercise regularly. He also began asking open-ended questions about his performance. Somewhat ironically, he found that "internal communication" was the area in which the highest number of participants believed he had room for improvement. Even as Rogers sought to get close to employees by way of [conversation], a fifth of his people were urging him to get closer still. True listening involves taking the bad with the good, absorbing criticism even when it is direct and personal—and even when those delivering it work for you.

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