See Something, Say Something : What leaders can do to build a healthy feedback culture

Katie Wilde
3 min readAug 2, 2017

Today my coach Dani asked a really good, hard question — what would you want from your ultimate manager? Of course I rattled off a laundry list of things where basically this person strikes the perfect balance of nurturing me and giving me lots of feedback and recognition but also lets me strike out on big ambitious things with a long leash. Then I said, Oh. And, they honestly want to hear about problems.

In a flash I realized how key making people feel safe to share challenges is, and that as a leader I need to radiate I-want-to-hear-all-your-concerns-ness. I want my team feel safe to share challenges with me. I really want to hear about problems. Here’s why.

There’s a giant ice-berg out there!

When things go wrong, from the key player who suddenly resigns to the strategy that doesn’t make sense, I believe that “no-one ever saw that coming” is rarely true. Every person on my team is smart, perceptive, savvy and incredibly tuned in to both what’s really happening, and what the vision for what should happen is. They can spot when the two don’t line up and most of the time have a better vantage point than I do. They’re uniquely positioned to say “hey, we should take corrective action”. When disaster strikes and a leader is surprised, their team often isn’t. That’s a shame.

Now by problems, I’m not saying I want us to pick up the office politics here and please tell me of all the things so-and-so ever did that got your back up. I’m talking about the uneasy feeling of a brewing storm. That “real feedback” leaders often say they want, but that people find hard to give. Sometimes it’s tough to speak out for good reasons of self-preservation (yikes), and sometimes it’s because you want to bring the solution, not the problem. I identify with that “be the change you want to see!” and “I bring solutions not problems!” instinct too.

How can I be the kind of leader where people feel that really, honestly, I want to hear the challenges? I imagine a good leader would make you feel truly welcomed to share the challenge. She would listen carefully and attentively and she will react “appropriately”. At the very least, you would not fear being shot as the messenger, or that you’ll overwhelm her and cause her to freak out, leaving you with both the problem and a freaked out boss on your hands. Also, she would value you more, not less, because you spoke up and helped her avoid a potential problem. You would know and feel that gratitude.

This is who I strive to be for my team, and this is my commitment to them this quarter. I’m excited to see how it goes.

I’d also love your tips on what truly living that “I-want-to-hear-all-your-concerns-ness” looks like!

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Katie Wilde

VP of Engineering at Ambassador Labs. I love it when you flourish.