Mind Work | 2020 March
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The art of receiving feedback as a manager

By Crystal Mbanefo

Not so long ago, I created a survey asking people how comfortable they felt about giving feedback in their teams. Quite a few of the answers on the form quoted:

“Oh I can give feedback to my teammate if something they do frustrates me that’s fine! But obviously with a manager it would be different!.”

Today, I am going to talk about one of the hardest forms of feedback currently known to man: employee to manager feedback. As you may have read in my first blog post on feedback, this can be a daunting scenario particularly in stifling corporate environments where hierarchy is the be-all and end-all.

A great example arose a few months ago when I was discussing with an ex-colleague. She said to me:

“Ohhh I feel my manager is slowing me down! It’s been 3 months now that I’ve consistently asked for the completed documents. He keeps saying he will work on them and get them to me but he doesn’t! It’s so frustrating!”

I say:

“Well tell him, It can only help!”

She immediately gasps and says:

“Are you crazy?! Do you want to get me fired? He’s my manager! So what happens when I tell him and my feedback rubs him the wrong way? Then what? I get excluded from the team! How would that help me?”

Herein lies the challenge with giving feedback “upwards”. We are taught from a very young age that hierarchy is often (if not always) right. We are taught that the “parents are wiser and know better” or that “the client is king”. We are also very aware as adults that money is very important to our survival, so we stay on the cautious side, trying our best not to rock the boat.

The consequences of this?

Nothing improves.

The work remains in an inefficient state; the employee’s feelings about the situation could quickly evolve from frustration to anger and even to demotivation, burnout, or exhaustion. (Side Tip: As a manager, it pays to be wary when your passionate employee goes quiet. That might be a sign that something is off).

I’m over it!

Now you might think:

“Oh, so there’s no consequence for the manager then! The only person who suffers here is the employee since they are not in a position of power to give feedback upwards to the manager.”

Well, I think it’s not entirely true.

There are consequences for the manager when their employee can’t give them honest feedback and one of the biggest consequences is that it reduces the team’s productivity, motivation, and morale. When these are affected, the manager will struggle to attain the goal of leading the team effectively. The manager might even witness people ready to leave his/her team at the drop of a hat.

In a sense, the team members hold the key to the manager’s success because they have their ears closer to the ground and a clear idea of what activities or strategies are working well in the team on a daily basis. The manager is more in an over-seeing role, so being able to listen and gain insight from team members is crucial.

So how as a manager, can you create a feedback-friendly environment where employees can give you feedback honestly?

Here are 4 tips I have learned during my journey of personal and managerial development.

  1. Become an active feedback researcher:
Where’s my feedback? Anyone seen it?

YES! Instead of waiting for an employee to give you feedback that you were not expecting, go and ask them for it. Be willing to share that you want to improve your managerial style and you would like to know how you can improve. Something I’ve noticed about this technique is that it feels very empowering for the manager and also, the employees tend to have a lot more respect for a manager who is willing to question their techniques and constantly improve. Try this next time and share with us how it felt!.

2. Create a fear-free zone:

Have you ever heard of Massimo Bottura and the case of the broken lemon tart?.

Create fear-free zones by turning mistakes into creativity.

Massimo’s story is an incredible example of the growth mindset. As a manager, aim to create spaces where mistakes can happen, where things can “not” go according to plan, and where imperfection is welcomed.

Why? Because we are human; we are all imperfect; we are all flawed. The more we allow imperfection and create from it, the more we create environments where our employees feel safe. In the long run, this gives you employees who are willing to praise your amazing management techniques, and in turn, shout out about the company. Strangely enough, when you give them the freedom to be themselves, they will be willing to jump through hurdles to give you the best of themselves.

Come work here cos it’s awesome!

(Little parenthesis and a shout out to my current manager Eddie Andress and to my CEO Evgeny Shadchnev for creating and contributing to these holistic practices at work.)

3. Practice Active Listening:

I hear you, I hear you.

This is probably the most important one but it is highly overlooked. In this step, we are “simply” listening to what another human being has to say. We are not brewing up ideas to challenge their viewpoint whilst the person in front of us is talking. We are simply listening. We are putting any thoughts, private agendas or judgments on the side, and really listening to what they are trying to tell us.

If you’ve never tried this before, try listening to a colleague for 5 solid minutes without interrupting them and without brewing up judgment or ideas whilst they are speaking. It’s difficult at the start but once you get the hang of it, you may find out that you are more able to listen to your employees, to gain more clarity on their issues, to decide the best decisions to take.

4. Break free from ideals:

I want to break freeeee

Free yourself from the idea that you have to be perfect as a manager; that imposing authority is the only way; that you need to lead the troops…It’s old thinking. Move into the future of leadership where emotional maturity reigns: Be willing to accept that you too as a manager are human and thus imperfect and have space to grow and learn. Be willing to accept that you have blind spots just like anyone else. Be willing to recognise your triggers and how you can regulate these triggers so they don’t stop you from taking on good-quality feedback.

Did I hear you say “What triggers?”. Well, that will be the topic of my next blog post so stay tuned 🙂


Keeping on top of your mental and physical wellbeing

WFH VOL1: Habits

Easy to pick up, hard to put down…

We’ve now completed our first official week in lockdown, and it seems that most of us have survived it with our wits still intact. But, how are we all feeling about the week ahead — Week 2?

(Quick shout out to those in the NHS working their butts off to keep on top of this pandemic, and a further shout out to the wellness professionals offering free classes to keep us all moving while much of the world stands still.)

I expect that this week maybe a little more daunting, especially as we start to look forward and consider the likely possibility that the 3 week lockdown period will be extended. Fear not, it doesn’t have to be all doom and gloom, as bad as this thing is, it’s happening and if I’ve learned anything from my years of working with people in crisis is that acceptance is a powerful and useful tool.

We must accept that it’s happening, as we have no choice. However, we do have a choice as to how we wish to respond. Let us look at a few responses to the lockdown that I’ve heard over the last week:

“I’ve just been taking it easy, I like the extra time in bed and making the commute to the kitchen”

“I’ve had a few glasses of wine each night and catching up with friends via video call, it’s been nice”

“I’m going to need some more Netflix recommendations”

Do any of the above resonate?

We are in a time of crisis and I agree that we have to make ourselves feel calm and comfortable to keep our panic levels down, but on the other side of the same coin — when will your physical and mental fitness work its way back into/into your everyday life?

Surely you must have thought about it, and probably decided that this week (week 2) may be the week you start, if so, use this post as a reminder, if not, use this post as a sign that your wellbeing must take priority if you’re to get through this with minimal physical, and minimal emotional damage.




1. A settled or regular tendency or practice, especially one that is hard to give up.

See, even the definition says that they’re hard to give up. Solution? Don’t pick them up in the first place. Now is your opportunity to pick up the habits that will serve you well. Good Habits — Just as an FYI, this post isn’t just something to get you through the COVID-19 pandemic, this is the chance for you to literally decide and design the (elusive) version of yourself that you were looking for before this whole thing hit us.

So over the next few weeks, we’ll be supporting you by providing some of the fundamental tools and practices needed to get you through the next few weeks to ensure an easy transition back to the ‘new version’ of normality.

I’ll be introducing new topics each week to cover a 360º approach to your wellbeing i.e. Your mind, body, and spirit. Next week we’ll be looking at Routine, their importance, the benefits, and how to implement.

If you’d like to jump ahead and grab a free eBook — Be your own life coach — simply follow the link. Re your habits, consider these 5 steps;

An easy trick for this is to close your eyes and visualise your perfect day — What time do you get up, what do you have for breakfast, what does your morning routine look like. Do this for your week, and your month. How awesome is that you?

We’re talking habits, not addictions here although there can be a fine line. Habits can be ingrained into or subconscious, but bring mindful of them i.e. bringing them to the conscious mind is the first step to letting go of them.

A little NLP technique for you — Take your list of habits, and simply acknowledge when they arise. By having the awareness of when the habits arise/their triggers — we allow the conscious mind to beat the subconscious to the punch.

Go back to your perfect day exercise — What did you do regularly. What habitual behaviours did you exhibit and contribute to your day, week, and month?

Just to give you a clear distinction between the two — A habit is an action we do often in a regular and repeated way. Routine is a regular way of doing things in a particular order. The main difference between habit and routine is that habit is a recurrent with little or no conscious thought whereas routine requires a high degree of intention and effort

In the meantime, I encourage you to start this very moment — we have a lot more time on our hands and this is the very same time we’ve all been asking for since forever. If you’ve ever said ‘Only if there were more hours in the day’… now there is so use them well, use them wisely, use them in the name of personal development.

To get the ball rolling, here are a few links to some FREE wellness practices to keep you active in the meantime;

For the mind:

Reading list

For the body:

10-minute breathwork session (An amazing way to start your day)

Live On-demand Yoga

Fitness programme

For the spirit:

(Here is a little video that guided me on my path)

Ted Talk — Science and Spirituality

Live Meditation – Every Friday 07:30pm

App –  Insight Timer for meditation

NOTE: If you (like many) find keeping to your best intentions a little challenging. Gamify it and reach out to a friend/accountability partner to keep you on the ball.

Any questions? Feel free to drop me a line; contact@mindsetmason.com

If you’re looking for something a little more robust to keep your physical and mental fitness out; Check out The Home 360º Programme