Monday, December 18, 2006

Leadership Power Tip 9: Seek Feedback

A common mistake that people in leadership positions make is not to seek feedback. They often receive unsolicited positive feedback about what they are doing – “Great meeting”, “Awesome progress on the project,” “Nice win of that new client”. We get caught up in the day to day events and do not always take the time to step back, reflect or spontaneously ask for feedback. Seeking feedback from employees, colleagues, managers or partners is not always easy. Sometimes you hear comments that present an entirely different perspective than you had expected.

If you are a manager, you may well be giving feedback to your people regularly. And by feedback, I mean both the positive and the negative kind. When you tell your workers that they are doing something right, it boosts their confidence and encourages them to keep doing that right. And when you tell them what they are doing wrong, they understand the error of their ways and can then take corrective action. Imagine the situation where an employee did not get timely feedback about something they were doing wrong or ineffectively. The result is time lost, less productivity and even mistakes, which essentially could be costly. As managers move up in the management ranks, there is an expectation that the executive should already be in the “know”. An ineffective course of action, misunderstood direction, and mistakes – all can happen to management leaders as well. While you, as the manager can give feedback to your workers without their asking for it, leaders typically will not get any feedback from others unless you seek it out.

By seeking feedback, leaders can get an honest opinion about their leadership effectiveness, which will then enable them to enhance their leadership even more. The feedback that you receive from others presents you with the insights into your leadership and the direction which your organization is moving towards. With these facts at hand, you can then make better decisions and are a more powerful leader. Jim Collins writes in his book Good to Great, “You absolutely cannot make a series of good decisions without first confronting the brutal facts.”

When you do ask for feedback from others, you should be open to any comments. In fact, it is the feedback on how you can improve or do something different that will help to enhance your leadership and take it to the next level. Seeking and receiving negative feedback, can be easier said than done. It is human nature to want to disregard or get angry at criticism of their behavior or their plans. But it is honest criticism that helps you to see which then gives you the information that you need to better yourself as a leader.

When you do receive negative feedback, it is important to know how to handle it. If you simply blow your top and act rude, this will only go to dissuade people from giving you an honest opinion after that. However, if you take the criticism under consideration and calmly analyze it, you may just choose to change your leadership approach, philosophy, or behavior accordingly.

In order to gain from any feedback, you should actively listen to what the other person is saying and then ask questions if anything is not completely clear. You should encourage suggestions from other people about what they think you should do or continue to do.

And one last thing that you simply have to do - thank the person for offering their feedback and suggestions, regardless of the nature of the opinion or whether you accepted the advice or not. Tell them that you are grateful for the opportunity to learn from them. This shows the other person that you are capable of being objective and a thorough professional, even in the face of criticism. The example a leader provides in seeking feedback openly is very powerful and the domino affect of modeling this kind of interactive communication can have a very positive effect on your organization. Seek Feedback and Unleash Your Leadership Power!

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