Most CEOs are fantastic sales people. We have to sell people on working for us, giving us money, our vision, everything. So, early on at Rent the Runway, whenever people would give me feedback, my first instinct was to sell them on the idea that their feedback wasn't true. Someone would tell me, "It was intimidating when you did X," and I'd say, "It wasn't intimidating; it was just Y." All of a sudden, people were giving me less feedback, and I had to change that.
We started an anonymous employee survey. Every six months, we ask about things such as employee happiness and satisfaction with their managers. We share the results of the survey with the whole company and create action plans to address the feedback. In the last survey, for instance, we realized there was confusion about our 2013 goals, even though, as an executive team, we thought we'd done a great job broadcasting those goals. We took that feedback, and at the next all-hands meeting, we went through every goal in detail and created a forum where people could ask questions.
And personally, I've gone from never asking for feedback to asking for it in every one-on-one I have. Then I just listen. I do not respond. Instead, I take actions to address that feedback, and, later, ask that employee if my actions made a difference. It's the follow-through that's so critically important.
As told to Inc. staff writer Issie Lapowsky.