One of the most important things a leader can receive is feedback. A leader’s success depends on their ability to engage others and bring them along with them. They are reliant on making a good impression that says, this is a person I want to follow. Learning to see how others view them is a critical skill.
Feedback is defined as “the transmission of evaluative or corrective information about an action, event, or process to the original or controlling source”. At first glance, the definition sounds a bit technical. That said, it is a useful. Feedback provides information that helps us evaluate or correct our behavior. It also references a controlling source, inferring we can control the behavior. More about this later.
Feedback Outlines The Leader’s Reputation
When I start working with a client, I usually interview their colleagues to gather feedback about what it is like to work with them. Their view forms the leader’s reputation. Most often, the leader’s reputation is different to how they think they come over. When the feedback conflicts with how they see themselves, my clients often question how that is possible. But here’s the problem, just because we intend to be seen a certain way, it doesn’t mean that is how we will be perceived.
The most important thing is to understand how the other person is interpreting you. By this I mean, what is it that you do that leads them to form their perception? Now we are getting to the most important thing about feedback. It needs to be specific and actionable.
Let me illustrate this. If I ask someone what it is like to work with my client, I’ll usually get a general response. Something like, she’s a good listener but I wish she was more available. The critique may elicit a defensive response because it conflicts with the leader’s view of themselves. The key is to ask for specific feedback. “What do you do when you need to get hold of them and what makes it challenging for you?”
Change Your Behavior To Change Your Reputation
In this example, the focus is on learning about the other person’s experience. What is their need and what is their experience when they try to satisfy it? With this information, the leader can understand the interpretation of their current behavior. They are now equipped to change their behavior to generate a different result. Think of it like this. When I do X they interpret me as Y. If I want to change their interpretation, I need to change what I do. What do I need to do that will lead them to interpret me as Z?
Let’s revisit the definition. With the right feedback, I have the information to control and change how I show up to others. It enables me to develop a new reputation. And this is critical because leaders need to bring others along with them. Our reputation is much more important than how we think we come over to others.
Gathering actionable feedback helps leaders improve their performance and generate better results. In the free ‘Leading Action’ webinar on December 9th, I will be talking about other ways leaders generate better results. Learn more and save your seat at this link.