Good Leaders Know that Feedback is a Gift
I will admit that I am an idealist who wants to work in an ideal workplace. Would you expect anything different from someone who has been in Learning and Development for most of their working life? I will also admit that I strive to practice what I “preach” in every leadership development session I’ve ever facilitated. But I am not delusional and know that I don’t always walk my talk. And, I am sure I’ve been a bad boss, colleague, etc. at times.
Why am I bearing my soul, in writing? Because I once got feedback about my lack of vulnerability (that will have to be another article though).
I honestly hate giving constructive feedback. But, I do it…to people who work for me, to people I work with, to people who are much higher in the food chain. Why do I do it? Because feedback is a gift. And, because sometimes we are blind to what others see.
Think about it this way…if you got back from lunch and had something in your teeth, wouldn’t you want someone to tell you before you spent the entire afternoon smiling at people????
Now think about it this way…knowing how you would feel if you spent the entire afternoon smiling at people with something in your teeth, what would you do if someone had something in their teeth…would you tell them? Would it matter if you was one of your employees? A colleague? Your manager? Your boss’s boss?
Feedback is sometimes the only way we can know our blind spots. It really is a gift!
If you will indulge me a little longer, below is an anecdote from my past. If not, here is the moral of the anecdote: There were two good lessons for me – you can give feedback to anyone and you have to walk the talk (it was a reminder for me to give feedback to others like I tell people to do and to be transparent with others).
I worked with a very senior level leader who decided he would come in on a Saturday to be part of the wrap up of a six-day leadership development program that I had been facilitating with people from his site. The plan was that he would show up at noon to present the completion certificates to each person and take a picture (like a graduation ceremony), and have lunch with the group. My plan was to be done with everything by 1:30 at the latest so they could have some of their Saturday back. The senior leader showed up at 1:15. There was some interesting conversation from noon until his arrival (we finally gave up waiting and started eating around 12:45). Most of the conversation was about how they gave up most of a Saturday for the session (we started at 8 AM) and he couldn’t be bothered to show up for an hour and a half. He arrived…no one said anything about him being late…including him – no apology, no reason why. He got food, had me give out the certificates while he ate, took a group picture, and left. It was clear to me they were upset, but more than anything they felt disrespected. That Monday I went by to see him. I asked if I could give him some feedback. He said yes. Using all the best practices for giving feedback, I told him how his behavior affected his team. I hope he took my feedback as the gift I way trying to give; I think he did because he told me he didn’t think how it could have been interpreted and how he wished he had handled it differently. (There were some family challenges at home that day – I think him being transparent would have gone a long way as many would have empathized. Instead they thought he didn’t value their time as much as his own.)