Just when you needed it the least, there it is. A blind spot in your leadership somehow creeps up and smacks you in the face. How was this not in your consciousness before? Just how did we get here?
I once received feedback from someone in the form of a letter. The writer stated that they felt I was unapproachable and more specifically, frequently did not greet them. The feedback in letter form meant they weren’t comfortable to tell me that in person (again, unapproachable) and yet it was still important enough to his emotions that he tell me. I recognized where my natural tendencies (I am an introvert) might lead me to act that way, made a conscious effort to adjust, and thanked him for his feedback. I remember it still today, and I make an effort to act on that feedback even ten years later in my career.
Leadership can be lonely, particularly the higher you are in your organization with less people providing you with guidance. To help stay grounded, one of the best practices leaders can maintain is seeking out and graciously accepting feedback. This is not a diet, it is a lifestyle. Your openness to hear the input from others on a regular basis forms the relationship and trust that is required for them to share. It must be cultivated and upheld consistently over time.
Ask for Feedback
Use your one-on-one time with your team, trusted peers, and your boss to get a 360-degree view. A great tactic is to ask specific feedback about something you are focusing on like, “I am really focusing on being more thorough and also inspiring in my communication. Could you tell me how that meeting felt, and suggest things to try next time?” This gives the feedback provider more guidance and they will provide a more useful and honest response than if you asked, “Do you have any feedback for me?”
When you ask for feedback, in any form, you must also be committed to doing something with the results. Requesting response and then doing nothing with it is one of the quickest ways to shut off the feedback faucet.
If you aren’t hearing ANY feedback from your teams, I challenge you to consider if one of two things might be happening:
- You aren’t tuned in and listening. Sometimes it may come to you as an afterthought or side comment, so quiet you may even miss it (see article below by Roger Schwarz). Watch for it as if you are on a birding expedition and you will suddenly hear all the hints being left for you.
- You have communicated to your team unintentionally through actions and context clues that you do not accept, welcome, or honor feedback and they have simply stopped trying to give it to you. This is not a great place to be as a leader, but recognizing it is the first step to repair.
For some additional reading, here are some of my favorite articles around receiving feedback and being comfortable with the uncomfortable. These offer some great reminders on how to reframe the act of asking for feedback, and how to listen to even the clumsiest feedback to gain insight.
Clumsy Feedback Is a Poorly Wrapped Gift – Roger Schwarz – Harvard Business Review
Get Over Your Fear of Conflict – Amy Jen Su – Harvard Business Review
Make Getting Feedback Less Stressful – Ed Batista – Harvard Business Review
About the author:
Katie Rasoul is the Chief Awesome Officer for Team Awesome, a coaching and consulting firm. Find out more by visiting www.teamawesomecoaching.com or sign up for our mailing list for awesomeness coming straight to your inbox. Follow Team Awesome on Facebook and Twitter.