Byte of Prevention Blog

by Jay Reeves |

10 Tips for Getting Others to Be Honest With You

When you ask for feedback – from a client, colleague or employee – sometimes they give it to you straight, but sometimes they only say what they think you want to hear.

They might be too intimidated or anxious to be completely candid. But if you’re a law firm manager or leader – and if you want to grow your practice – it’s important to receive their honest opinions.

“Successful companies are open to feedback coming from every person on the team,” writes tech entrepreneur Brian de Haaff. “[But] your title might hold people back from expressing what they truly think — and as importantly, what they are feeling.”

The key, says de Haaff, is to build strong relationships. If there’s a solid foundation of trust, people are more likely to open up to you. Building this foundation takes time, commitment and regular interaction.

“Receiving direct feedback is something I relish,” says de Haaff, founder of the product roadmap software Aha! “We need everyone to be engaged and share their thoughts.”

10 Ways to Get Honest Feedback

  1. Let people know they’re valued. When employees feel they are important members of your team, they are more likely to speak candidly. When clients feel you are on their side and committed to their case, they are more likely to provide honest input.
  1. Explain the importance of communication. “Sharing your thoughts takes work,” says de Haaff. “Not speaking up is painless and poses few risks. So respect each individual and know that feedback can actually be an indication of deeply caring about a mission, company and team. Explain that learning and improvement require transparency and conversation. Then, back it up — create opportunities to spark the conversations that need to be had.”
  1. Ask for feedback in good times and bad. When everything is going great, giving positive feedback is fun and easy. But when the wheels come off, not so much. Yet it is even more important to communicate when something goes wrong. What caused this outcome? How could it have been prevented? What can we do to make sure it won’t happen again?
  1. Listen – and be prepared to accept whatever you hear. “Our inclination is to jump ahead to solving the problem or even to dismiss the feedback if it does not ring true to us,” says de Haaff. “But a solution is not always possible or wanted. And being dismissive will get you nowhere. Listen deeply and accept the answer — especially if the conversation is about you.”
  1. Pick your spots. The heat of battle may be the absolute worst time to ask for comments. Wait until things settle down.
  1. Respond thoughtfully. “A meaningful dialogue requires at least two people to participate,” says de Haaff. “Otherwise, you just have an echo chamber. While your position in the company gives you a certain level of prestige, that does not mean you cannot engage with others directly.”
  1. Ask if they have any questions for you. Give them a chance to flip the script and get feedback from you.
  1. Be true to your core values. Walk the walk. If you say your law firm values communication and teamwork, live up to that pledge
  1. Remember that not everyone will agree with you. That’s a good thing. Many voices make a choir.
  1. Don’t take things personally. You’re not seeking personal affirmation. You’re looking for ways to make your practice stronger and more successful.


How do you approach others for feedback?

About the Author

Jay Reeves

Jay Reeves practiced law in North Carolina and South Carolina. He was Legal Editor at Lawyers Weekly and Risk Manager at Lawyers Mutual. He is the author of The Most Powerful Attorney in the World, a collection of short stories from a law life well-lived, which as the seasons pass becomes less about law and liability and more about loss, love, longing, laughter and life's lasting luminescence.

Read More by Jay >

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