When you were learning to read, the first thing your teacher introduced you to was the alphabet. The ABC’s served as the building blocks for you to ultimately handle reading books.
Feedback is similar to reading in that there are practices and mindsets that need to be in place for you to be a pace setting leader. I call these the ABC’s of feedback. Today let’s look at three A’s.
1. Ask Questions. There is an old saying, “If you want someone to know something … tell them.” It works both ways. If you want to know what someone is thinking … ask them. Unfortunately, most leaders avoid feedback. They rarely, if ever, ask those closest to them how things are going. Insecurity, unawareness, and arrogance can all lead to avoidance.
When seeking feedback the best place to start is by asking the right questions. Questions like:
- How am I doing?
- What three things am I doing well?
- What three things could I do better?
- What is the number one thing I could stop doing to be more effective?
- What is one thing you would like to see me start doing?
- What do you need from me?
- What is the first thing you would change if you were the leader of our organization?
These questions and many more will give you a clearer picture of your current reality.
2. Accept Answers. If you are going to ask, you need to be open to what you will hear. In other words, listen … really listen. Rarely do leaders master the skill of listening. Too often they fall into the temptation of trying to make a point. There is so much to be gained when we lock in on what others are saying, especially those who are in the trenches. You have two ears for a reason. Use them.
Once feedback is shared, work hard to not put up a wall. Nothing will shut down feedback quicker than a leader who is overly sensitive or defensive. While answers need to be considered and weighed for their validity, the best time for that is later, not on the spot. When someone takes the risk of telling you what they believe to be true, work hard to create space and foster trust by listening intently. A great practice is to thank the person giving the feedback and resist the temptation to argue or explain. Once feedback is received, find a place to be alone and process what has been said. See the feedback as a gift and value the person who gave it. High performance organizations are environments where truth is freely shared and valued.
3. Adjust Behavior. Once you have filtered the feedback, make adjustments as needed. The goal of feedback is to give you a plan to pursue progress. Leaders who positively set the pace are always reaching for great. They are willing to leave good behind. If you want others to improve their performance, lead the way by seeking to continually improve yours. A readiness to adjust behavior will show the team you are serious about feedback and lead to an environment where excellence is the target for everyone.
Feedback is about more than asking, accepting, and adjusting. Those are things any leader can do to lead to progress. But there are also things we need to be if we are to find feedback wherever we go … and those B’s will be the focus of tomorrow’s post.
Leadership Begins at Home,
Which of the three A’s is the most challenging for you as a leader?
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