“One Minute Manager” author and management expert Ken Blanchard said, “Feedback is the breakfast of champions.”

If you have ever seen the CBS show “Undercover Boss,” you know this to be true. In the series, executives work covertly in their own companies to observe how their corporations function and determine how they can be improved. While working under wraps, these leaders hear the unvarnished truth from those on the front lines.

It is likely not possible for CEOs of small businesses to work incognito in their companies, but that doesn’t mean they can’t receive the same candid feedback as those in larger corporations can in situations like “Undercover Boss.”

  1. Employee satisfaction surveys.Conduct these surveys at least twice a year to gauge employee attitudes, loyalty, workplace climate, satisfaction, and productivity. Share the results with the entire company and take action, sharing your intentions and outcomes with the entire team. Regularly seeking feedback shows team members that leaders are willing to listen to constructive criticism and make changes when needed, which makes for a more open work environment.
  2. 360-degree feedback surveys.Another way to receive feedback is through the 360-degree approach. This assessment comes from members of an employee’s immediate work circle, including his or her teammates, peers, and supervisors, as well as a self-evaluation.
  3. Manage by Walking Around (MBWA). This hands-on management style named by Tom Peters allows business leaders to listen to both suggestions and complaints, while keeping a finger on the pulse of the organization. Walk around through your workplace to check with team members about the status of work. Ask employees questions, such as: “What’s working?” “What’s not working?” “What do you need to be more effective?” “What obstacles do you need removed?”
  4. Listen. Whether it’s paying attention to key complaints in an employee satisfaction survey or recognizing the contributions of others in a meeting, listening is the most important leadership skill to possess. By listening and responding to the needs of others, leaders gain their employees’ trust and respect. This is truly the best way leaders can show team members they care and are fully committed to them. The point of these activities is not to play “genie” and grant employees their three wishes. Rather, it is to start an open and honest dialogue across all levels in the organization to help everyone be more effective. It will surprise leaders how much morale can be lifted by simply asking for input, listening to their teams, and responding to what they have to say.

This story was originally published in the Nashville Business Journal.