Leaders, I have an important question for you: Do you actively court feedback? Are you constantly seeking insight into how you’re doing your job, and suggestions for how you could do it even better?
To put it even more pointedly: If one of your team members approached you with a constructive performance review, how would you take it?
Would you get defensive? Would you get angry? Or would you welcome it for what it was: An invaluable opportunity to become sharper, stronger, and more effective as a leader?
See, we all like to receive praise and affirmation, but none of us particularly like being told we have room for improvement. That’s especially true when the constructive criticism comes from someone who is “under” us. But that feedback shouldn’t be viewed as a personal affront. We shouldn’t be insulted by it. Actually, we should soak it up. We should scramble for any chance we get to become even better at what we do.
We all have our blind spots—parts of our behavior that we may not see so clearly. Feedback helps us identify those areas, to see ourselves as others see us. That can be painful, but it can also be a kind of roadmap, pointing us down avenues for improvement.
A smart leader welcomes any and all feedback. Not only that, but he or she works to create a company culture in which feedback flows freely, and everyone craves chances for improvement. The question is, how can you do this?
Let me offer just a few quick suggestions:
Lead by example. Be careful to provide your team members with actual feedback—specific areas in which they are doing well or could do better. Make everything you say to them constructive and results-oriented, never personal or vague.
Have an open door policy. Make it clear to your team members that you’re always around and welcome any input they may have.
Respond appropriately. Remember, if you’re going to tell people you care about their input, you can’t get defensive when they tell you things you don’t want to hear. Listen and acknowledge whatever feedback comes your way.
Have a formalized feedback process. Make sure you have regular performance reviews; don’t just provide employees with feedback, but also give them a chance to offer you some feedback.
Take it to the customers. Look outside your team for potential feedback or suggestions. Send out customer surveys. Let your clients know you care about their experience and listen to what they have to say.
Building a feedback culture may take some time, and may leave you feeling a little bit bruised along the way—but it’s ultimately worth it as you seek to make your leadership as effective as possible.
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