Leadership – Taking Feedback
As you may have seen from my other blogs, I’m taking leadership courses and trying to stretch and define myself. It is hard work but I think it is going to be well worth the trouble. I’m getting great input from many sources and writing about it helps me think it through.
One great piece of advice I’ve gotten is to look at feedback as a growth opportunity. Feedback is like gold; take it, mine it, and use the best parts. But all feedback is not equal. If you get a low rating on a survey or what you consider “bad” feedback from an individual it might indicate you don’t do that particular thing well, it might mean you do it well but don’t make yourself visible when you do it, or it might mean that person has some other agenda. Take feedback in context and look for trends, patterns, and situations. If multiple people or people whose opinion you really value (or need) say something, that’s probably more meaningful than an offhand comment from someone you rarely interact with. If the feedback is about something that has nothing to do with improving your leadership skills, do you really need to prioritize it?
Once you have the feedback, make sure you truly examine it. Don’t jump to conclusions. Look at your reaction. If you immediately dismiss it or get defensive, think about why. If you’re constantly repeating it as something unbelievable that someone has said, maybe you’re missing the point. If they say you need to do something you think you already do, maybe you just haven’t made it clear that you already do that. Or maybe you don’t do it as well as you think. Maybe you are using the same terminology to mean different things. Go back and ask, without being defensive, for clarification and more details. Don’t accept “you need to work harder” – ask “what does hard work look like to you?” Ask “how will you and I know when I’m working hard enough?” If you’re told to be friendlier, ask for specific examples of when you appeared to be less than friendly and tips on how a friendly person acts in that person’s eyes. Don’t immediately offer a defense of the situation, ask for more examples. Offer suggestions such as “If I do X instead of Y do you think that would be better?”
If the feedback indicates you need to do something that doesn’t fit with your values, needs, and desires go back and address it. Doesn’t stew about and wonder if the person giving the feedback is clueless or out to get you. If you’ve asked for clarification and still believe it doesn’t fit with you, try to find out how important it is. Do you need to change? Does the person’s expectation need to change? Does their expectation really matter to you? Can you substitute something else that’s close enough for their needs but fits better with the real you? Can you agree to disagree and agree that this one thing isn’t going to be a big obstacle to good assignments, promotions, and raises? Don’t obsess about, do something about it.
Last week at #SQLPASS there were about 14 people attending from Boise! That’s a great showing since sometimes we don’t have many more in our Boise SQL Server Users Group meetings. At the chapter lunch one of the regular user group attendees made an offhand comment that I was always correcting people during chapter meetings. Others at the table agreed. I obsessed about it for a while… ok, it still bothers me. But I think he’s right. Whenever we have a speaker at the user group I always have to add something. And by add something I probably mean correct them. Most of the user group probably doesn’t need each subtle point explained at great depth, but I have trouble controlling myself. Should I change that aspect of myself? I’m still debating if and how to deal with it. But at least now it’s on my radar. I can think about it before I make a comment during a presentation or when talking to a customer. How important is it to really get that subtle distinction (correction?) into the conversation? That was a good piece of feedback and I am trying to treat it as the gem it is instead of reacting with “no I don’t”. Because “no I don’t” is a correction to his feedback. Instead I’ll take the golden nugget and use it to improve my own interactions. And that’s what feedback is about.
Leadership courses are great! I did one as part of my masters degree and I can say it was absolutely brilliant. I recommend a book called Leadership by Dubrin, Dalglish and Miller .. its full of brilliant information, self assessments and strategies. The other thing I recommend is getting a mentor. Someone who you can meet with once every fortnight or so, discuss issues, ask questions and strategies, and get advice on situations you may not have handled so well. Good luck and have FUN! :)