‘Feedback is the breakfast of champions’
– Ken Blanchard
Ken Blanchard is the author of one of my favorite quotes and I believe his quote captures the importance of leaders actively looking for feedback opportunities to help them develop into the ‘champions’ that lie within.
The opportunity to request feedback is all around us all the time. Yet many of us never take the opportunity to get rich feedback from the people that know us best. There are many excuses not to enthusiastically solicit feedback, but consider behavioural statistician Joseph Folkman’s recent study of 51,896 leaders. He ‘found that leaders who ranked at the bottom 10% in asking for feedback were rated at the 15th percentile in overall leadership effectiveness. It appears that being open and willing to receive feedback from others is an essential skill for effective leaders.’
For those who recognize the value of getting feedback on their leadership it can be challenging to receive honest, frank feedback from colleagues. Enter a fabulous activity that many leadership coaches use called the 360-degree feedback process. Leaders receive confidential, anonymous feedback from the people who work around them. In most cases feedback is drawn from the leader’s manager, peers, and direct reports (it can also include customers and other key stakeholders).
So, imagine you have taken a deep breath, asked for and received feedback via the 360-degree process. How do you make sense of all the data related to your leadership strengths and particularly those sensitive ‘growth areas’ (i.e. areas where your scores are low)?
In my experience – both as a leader receiving 360-degree feedback and a coach supporting clients to create a Professional Development plan – I have found the advice of Susan David, co-director of the Harvard/McLean Institute of Coaching, to be sound. In a recent Harvard Business Review blog post, she suggests that leaders should answer the following three questions when deciding how/if to attend to a low score:
- Is this a consistent problem? Has it come up in previous reviews and from different raters?
- Is the problem a fatal leadership flaw? Does it point to lack of integrity, authenticity, or honesty?
- Is it incongruent with your values? Does it conflict with the type of leader you want to be? “Your values are your anchor and they should inform the leadership principles that you try to live up to,” she says.
I have huge admiration for leaders who partake in a 360-degree feedback process. It takes tremendous courage to voluntarily open yourself up to the feedback from those around you and to be vulnerable. I also subscribe to the philosophy that being vulnerable is, as Research Professor and best selling author Brene Brown puts it, ‘our greatest measure of courage’. Be sure to check out her video series ‘4 Powerful Things Leaders Should Know About Vulnerability’
Want to learn more about leadership coaching and the 360-degree feedback process? Contact us at Info@VisionCoachingInc.com or 888-747-4199. Read more about various assessments we use within our 1-to-1 leadership coaching services.