Remember the boss you once had who told everyone that the door was always open, and that they really valued your feedback, or suggestions, anytime? Then, when a handful of courageous souls provided some feedback, they were listened to half-heartedly (or defensively) and thanked mechanically. Nothing ever came of their comments or suggestions. In fact, the whole exercise may have done more harm than good. To become an effective leader and executive, you must learn to listen fully, and encourage, accept, and act upon feedback.
Let’s focus on three big picture concepts important for making feedback work for you and your organization.
- Be Ready! Do not ask for feedback until you are ready to actively and impartially listen. Do you want to hear candid perspectives and sincere suggestions, or are you really hoping for a pat on the back? Some of the feedback you receive might contradict your sense of self (“disorganized? I’m an amazingly organized person!”). Mindset is incredibly important. So make sure you are ready to accept and learn from feedback before you ask for it. People need to feel safe giving you feedback. Without a sense of safety and trust, you’ll never hear anything useful.
- Ask for Feedback Consistently. When we begin an executive coaching engagement at Arden Coaching, we typically start with a 360 Leadership Assessment. This provides us, our client, and their supervisor with a detailed view of the executive’s current skill standing. It’s a wonderful benchmark and useful blueprint for growth. That said, don’t make feedback a once-a-year thing. It’s important to ask for specific feedback on a regular basis. Vague requests for feedback (like our old boss, above) are too hazy. People won’t know what you are asking or looking for. Request feedback about one specific thing. For example, “We’re beginning a new project — what’s the one thing I could do differently that you think would help us work better together.”
- DO something with Feedback. As an executive you must let people know that you heard them. We have a tendency to leave that part out. When you use feedback to enhance operational processes, modify your behavior or communication style, change how meetings are run, or adjust organizational priorities, let people know that they have been heard, and let them know that you are working on improvements based on their feedback.
For more detail, Arden Coaching President, Maren Perry, has written an insightful and informative blog called the “Ten Tips on Accepting Feedback Gracefully.”
We are all curious about how others see us. We want to know how we’re doing and learn how to do better. At the same time, we all want to be liked. Feedback falls in the intersection between those desires. Done correctly, you’ll become a more confident, productive, and inspiring leader.
To learn more about how executive coaching and our 360 Leadership Assessment can help you become a stronger leader and executive, contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org or 646.844.2233.