The One Behavior that Most Advances Your Leadership

Seeking feedback is at the top of the biggest leadership failures. (The Leadership Challenge)

Everytime I’m asked about giving feedback, I ask, “What are you doing to seek feedback?” I do this because leaders model the way.

“Example is not the main thing in influencing others. It is the only thing.” Albert Schweitzer

Excellence and feedback:

Imagine practicing foul shots or field goals but never seeing if they went in. You could practice for weeks but never improve.

Excellence requires passion, persistence, principles, clarity, direction, and more. But lack of feedback always holds you back.

Sadly, feedback from employees suggests they seldom receive sufficient feedback.

If you aren’t giving enough feedback, you aren’t getting enough feedback either.

Two questions:

#1. How can you ask for feedback and not feel subservient to others?

Serving is strength; subservience is weakness.

Seeking feedback indicates strength.

Inviting feedback suggests the strength of passion and resolve to make progress.

#2. How can you ask for feedback without others feeling superior to you? (Questions from a workshop participant.)

  1. Consider feedback a two-way exchange. One directional feedback encourages superior to inferior dynamics.
  2. Divide the exchange of feedback into separate conversations. Ask for feedback but don’t give feedback during the same conversation.
  3. Engage in open ended feedback conversations. “Let’s talk about how I’m doing as a leader.” (But avoid any hint that you’ve asked for feedback as an excuse to give it.)
  4. Extend honor. Protecting the ego of others opens the heart to receive tough feedback. People need to feel important, useful, even powerful. Exchanging feedback isn’t a pissing contest.

Two observations:

  1. “How am I doing?” usually results in useless feedback.
  2. “How is my hands-off approach working with you?” invites specific feedback about behaviors. 

Useful feedback is specific and timely.

How might you seek specific feedback this week?