Feed Me Please!! – How Direct Feedback Can Make You a Better Leader – Sherri Hilton MAL, CEC, PCC
When was the last time, if ever, that you asked (and yes, I mean you initiated this), one or more of your team members, peers or your boss for feedback about how you are showing up and the impact you are having on your company or organization? Feedback is one of the most valuable tools in your leadership toolkit and can help you gain greater awareness of your behaviours, your leadership impact and effectiveness.
As an executive coach, I help leaders achieve desired and lasting positive behavioural change. The process of identifying what needs to change and why it is important for that leader, always begins with gathering feedback to help with their perspective and identify strengths and opportunities for focused development. Susan Scott, author of the mega bestseller Fierce Conversations (and one of the leadership books I highly recommend) says, “To become more effective and fulfilled at work, people need a keen understanding of their impact on others and the extent to which they’re achieving their goals in their working relationships. Direct feedback is the most efficient way for leaders and aspiring leaders to gather this information and learn from it.”
What I have often observed is that we are reluctant, or even afraid to ask for the very thing (direct feedback) that could make a huge positive difference to our leadership and ultimately our lives. So why is that? Why would we resist something that could actually help us in the long run? Well as it turns out, we are biologically wired to resist feedback, especially when we perceive it as a threat, which we often do. Daniel Goleman, author of Emotional Intelligence: Why It Can Matter More Than IQ (another resource I highly recommend) refers to this as the “amygdala hijack” or the emotional response that can be automatically triggered in our brains and causes us to resort back to some very primitive behaviours, including flee, freeze or fight. This automatic response served us well thousands of years ago when our primitive ancestors were fleeing or fighting a sabre tooth tiger but not exactly how we want to show up when asking for and then receiving feedback!
And there is a lot of evidence that shows the more senior your role, the less likely the people around you will offer you feedback. Which means you need to ask for it. And ask on a regular basis. If you have the opportunity to take part in a formal 360 multi rater feedback assessment that’s a great option, but if not, then the four simple, yet powerful questions below are a great place to start. I encourage you to take these questions and ask 4-5 individuals with whom you interact on a regular basis (a combination of your boss, directs reports, peers and even customers is ideal) to provide you with their honest, unvarnished feedback in the form of their answers to these questions.
- What is the most important thing I should START doing that would have the greatest positive impact on my leadership?
- What is the most important thing I should I STOP doing that is negatively impacting my leadership?
- What should I KEEP DOING? Why?
- What else?
These four questions can provide you with a wealth of information about your strengths, your gaps and your blind spots and help you focus on what is most important for your leadership right now. Gather the feedback and then notice “what” is showing up and how you will move forward with this knowledge.
And of course don’t forget to say “thank you” to those who provided you with the feedback. That’s it. Just a heartfelt “thank you.” Don’t get defensive. Or make excuses when you see what is being offered to you. Or try to figure out who said what (if the feedback comes from an anonymous survey.) Instead ask yourself “what if this is true?” Then what? What would I need to think about? What might I have to change?
So go ahead. Get hungry. Feed yourself. I think you will be amazed with the difference that regular feedback can make to your leadership and to your life.
About Sherri Hilton
Sherri Hilton is a Senior Leader with a Canadian based financial institution and also a private leadership coach for leaders in both the United States and Canada.
Sherri has a proven track record of helping leaders achieve personal excellence, build strong relationships with others and positively impact and contribute to the success of their organizations. As an experienced and highly skilled executive coach, Sherri has worked successfully worked with business owners, leaders and upwardly mobile professionals in a wide range of industries including education, health, construction, oil and gas and finance.
She has more than 20 years of experience in individual and group coaching, leadership and organizational development, advanced facilitation and public speaking. These experiences have provided Sherri with both the expertise and deep knowledge of organizational dynamics and systems and a genuine understanding of the many opportunities and challenges of leadership.
Sherri has both a Masters degree in Leadership and a Graduate Certificate in Executive Coaching from Royal Roads University and holds a PCC level of accreditation through the global International Coach Federation (ICF), in which she is an active member. She is also certified in a number of leadership development assessments and tools, including Emotional Intelligence 360, The Leadership Circle 360, Meyers Briggs Type Inventory, Korn Ferry Voices 360 and Personality Dimensions.
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