If you want to become a better leader, and get more feedback from your team -- along with reading ideas from all of the "how-to books," which have been published on this subject, you need to garner some suggestions and learning from the feedback given by your team. Yes, getting that feedback can be a challenge in itself.
First, as a general rule employees are reluctant to be entirely honest with you because they are afraid they will "piss off the boss" and diminish their chances at a promotion or raise. Truly, this fear on the part of the employee is not unfounded. They've heard horror stories about a boss or two, and they may be feeling intimidated by other team members, as well.
Second, the employee may not necessarily be giving any valuable input at meetings in the first place. They may merely be giving "fluff." This is possibly due to trust issues mentioned in number one -- however you can make it clear you expect at least one concise piece of input each week that the team member feels could really be a game changer for the company.
I've experienced both situations at my company and have found a few of the best ways to get the feedback out of my team:
Open door policy: I've made it clear that I have an open door policy -- which means that the employee can tell me anything that is on their mind. I want to hear from my team in a way that they know they don't have to hold back. I've made it clear that there are no repercussions for brutal honesty. I let them know that we want to hear about anything they feel is not working for the company. I am especially interested in insights as to what can be done better to move us forward as a company.
At every meeting I mention that if I am doing something personally that gets in the way of progress for the company -- or something needs to change -- please come and tell me. Part of the open door policy that encourages frank discussions are the walk breaks I take with team members separately, as well as lunches and meetings with virtual staff when I'm in the same city. In this way, they have my undivided attention within a comfortable and confidential space.
Contest for feedback that produces better company results: Since I tend to be pretty competitive and find that others on my team enjoy contests and team competitions, I thought a good way to improve feedback would be to create a way to reward the comments and ideas that actually change our company for the better.
I decided to try a contest idea to see if it would change the level of detail in the feedback, so I could have more to work with that would benefit the business. I was amazed at how much the contest changed the type of responses I was getting. There were essentially new product ideas and mini-business plans that appeared in the contest email box along with very detailed ideas about how we could save more money and work together more collaboratively. I was able to pick-up a couple of incredible ideas to implement, and those ideas ended up rewarding both the team members who shared them -- and also the company -- because we saw positive results from the suggestions. This contest got the rest of the team excited. The contest worked so well I am now getting read to start the next competition, hoping to get even more valuable feedback.
Culture of candor: I have been working hard to create a culture that encourages more candor among the whole team, not just providing me feedback. We needed to create a flow across all functions within the teams. To do this I have needed to change some of my own behavior to model for the others to follow. When they see me being honest and open about sharing what's on my mind, they understand that I approve of this behavior. It's taken time and it has taken me finally asking people outright, to please be frank, and share more.
One way I've done this is to make the "speak-easy" a routine part of each day. This includes having a speak-up section within meetings, but also keeping one-on-one check-ins in a more private setting like a Slack or Skype messaging session. Scheduling these times also pushes people to come prepared to contribute better and be more open because there is a set time where they know they can speak out about what they are thinking rather than worrying about when it might be the "right moment" to speak up.
I can tell you that none of this happens overnight. It takes a concerted and consistent effort of showing employees how to say things, and walking the employees through the behavior that provides a safe environment for detailed feedback on what we all can be doing better. Ways that will ultimately benefit the employee as well as the company.