“May I give you some feedback?” Those words typically inspire fear and dread for most leaders I work with. We typically associate the word “feedback” so while we all enjoy hearing the positive, we are often afraid to hear what others think of us and our work. In short, although we know that positive feedback can fuel continued high performance, we are not always willing to acknowledge the power of constructive feedback.
Sometimes constructive feedback validates what we know about ourselves, but often what we hear is revelatory. By definition, we can’t see our blind spots. Yet an understanding where your areas for growth lie can help you avoid the pitfalls and roadblocks to success that often plague leaders. Although our strengths will always be stronger than even our most developed weaknesses, knowing where our vulnerabilities lie can help us leverage our strengths more strategically. They can also inform our choices about who we hire so that we surround ourselves with people who are strong where we are weak.
There are many ways to gain feedback on performance. Although most of the leaders I speak with acknowledge that they do not get or give as much feedback as they could or should, those who are interested in learning more about themselves can do so in a variety of meaningful ways. There are formal 360 feedback assessments that many companies employ. Some are online tools and others are interview-based, but all provide a wealth of data about strengths, areas for growth and how others perceive you.
If your organization does not offer these types of opportunities, and many don’t, I suggest that you conduct your own mini-360 by asking for feedback from the people with whom you work. Begin by asking where your strengths lie and how you can better leverage them. Then move on to where your opportunities for growth may be. Some of the most useful questions are the ones we are most afraid to ask, such as “What am I doing now that I should stop doing?” and “If you were in charge of my team, what would you immediately do differently?” These questions will help you get a more complete picture of how you operate.
Regardless of whether you are senior leader in a large corporation, a lawyer with firm, a new manager in a growing enterprise, getting honest, direct feedback about what you do well and where your growth opportunities lie is a great way to ensure that you are as successful as you can be.
Please weigh in and let me know how you have gathered feedback in the past and what that feedback has meant to your professional growth and development.