How To Eat Your Feedback
"Feedback is the breakfast of champions".
Well this is true, but only if you eat it!
I've lost count of the number of times I've seen leaders obtain feedback from all sorts of sources and then do nothing about it.
To get the most out of feedback you have to respond to it. You have to use it to make you a better leader. To paraphrase Michael Jackson you've got to:
"Eat it! Just eat it!"
The "breakfast of champions" can consist of all sorts of food types: formal 360° feedback; a request at the end of a meeting; personal feedback from a workshop or comments from friends and family.
Let me promise you that if you confront what others think about you, agree that you have room to improve and commit to change, you will be a better leader.
Over my 27 years of working with groups of leaders and more recently one on one, I've developed a five step process that - if you commit to follow - will help you to "eat" your feedback:
Let's examine these 5 steps in detail.
Yep that's right, go back to the source of feedback and clear the air. Put, as I say, a "bowling ball" on the table and talk about your flawed behaviours. Because if you don't ask for forgiveness, you will never get the support you need from anyone to help you get better.
"Hi team, it's come to my attention that I rarely ask for your opinion about key issues. I'm sorry if I offended you and regret not tapping into your ideas earlier."
There's a flawed assumption in leadership that being a positive role model is enough to show people the way. But what if they don't know what to look for? Just because you follow a skilled Aboriginal tracker for the day doesn't mean you know how to lead the way. The key here is to tell people what you are working on. Tell them what you are trying to change or they just won't notice.
And more importantly ask them to capture incidents when you are "on" and "off" track.
You know that you are just going to get so busy with work. Your new commitment to change will get buried under your email, the next presentation and monthly reporting.
So here's what you do. You diarise a time to get feedback from others about how you are doing. Don't expect them to remember to give it to you. Remember, they are just as busy as you are.
Not only is this good follow up, it also shows people you are genuinely trying and really value their opinions.
"I know I've asked you to keep an eye on me over the last week or so. Can we make a time for you to let me know how you think I'm going?"
Of all the steps this is probably the hardest one. It involves sitting down with the other person (or people) involved and asking them to give you feedback on what they've noticed.
It involves listening without judging, without justification, without sulking or withdrawing, without getting angry, without jumping to conclusions or a plan of action. Get it? Just listen.
The only three responses you need to make are:
1. Clarify to make sure you understand.
2. Confirm your understanding.
3. Genuinely thank them for their support.
If ever the old "attitude of gratitude" was important it's now.
"Thank you, I really appreciate you being so upfront and honest with me. It means a lot to me and I'll continue to work with the feedback you've given me."
You want to be a better leader don't you? Well this last step is vital. It's about setting an intention for yourself and its impact on the business. It might be 3 months, 6 months or 12 months, but write down how you will be behaving and how others will be interacting with you by this date. Make it part of your "vision of greatness".
Then, share it with others. Remember no one makes it on their own.
"Within 6 months I'd like to think that we can tackle the big issues as a team and conduct monthly meetings where everybody will have input into the strategic direction. That way it won't just be set by me in my old "telling" mode. We can work together as true partners, not just as functional specifications, and have everyone committed to a common goal".
Digest these five simple steps and you can be assured that any feedback you receive from now on really will be the "breakfast of champions".
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