In my line of work, I am always seeking proven ways to improve leadership effectiveness. Leadership books contain thousands of breakthrough ideas. I am bombarded by webinars and online programs claiming to have the secret. I guess they can’t all be true or we wouldn’t be constantly seeking the answers. We would all be excelling.
I recently attended a discussion with a coach called Marshall Goldsmith. Marshall is one of the best coaches on the planet. Knowing this I don’t pass up an opportunity to listen to his wisdom from over 30 years as a coach. In this particular discussion, he was reflecting on the best way to help someone improve. With his track record, he knows a thing or two about this.
The proven way to improve
He started by saying it took him almost 30 years to figure this out. He had intuitions but didn’t have any concrete evidence. That was until he performed an extensive client survey. He found the answer was simple. Leaders who gather feedback and act on it improve their leadership effectiveness. This sounds obvious and the data is compelling.
The survey asked peers of clients how often the client leader sought feedback. The peers also reported their perception of how this leader’s effectiveness changed on a scale of -3 to +3. In the first chart below, the leader did a little follow-up. The results aren’t terrible, most peers reported there was some improvement. From my experience this is very typical.
The next chart shows the results when the leader did consistent periodic follow-up. The results are very impressive, the best I have seen. The majority of leaders improved their effectiveness to the maximum extent. In almost all cases, the perception of them as leaders rose significantly. I have no idea if their leadership improved so dramatically but there is no doubt about the perception of their peers. And perception equals reality.
How to do it
So, why don’t we gather feedback on a consistent periodic basis? It is hard, it takes courage and it requires skill. I can’t help provide courage, but here are some tips from Marshall about how to gather feedback:
• Ask what can I do to be a better… This could be manager, team player, etc.
• Respond with gratitude. Their insight is a gift.
• Don’t commit to work on everything suggested. Marshall suggests the following response, ‘Thank you. I can’t promise to do everything you and everybody else suggests. I promise to listen and do what I can.’
If you are looking for a way to get better in 2019, I haven’t come across a better set of results. Please let me know if you plan to do this and please share your results.