We know that trust is the foundation of leadership, meaning that you will not be able to truly lead without first establishing trust. Trust starts with building relationships—you have to know your people. You have to really connect with them. John Maxwell calls this "The Law of Connection," and says that you have to have a relationship that reaches someone's heart before you reach their hand. You have to build personal relationships that help you, which will build trust that allows you to give and receive feedback. This, in turn, leads to deeper relationships which will enable you to have a more significant influence on those you lead such as your direct reports, your wife or husband, your children, your peers or boss.
So why would you want to gain feedback? My answer to that is, "Why not?" How do we get better as leaders if we are not continually striving to lead our people better. I heard a great analogy a couple of weeks ago used for a slightly different purpose, but I think it works here as well:
Steve and Jen had just had their first baby, Katie. They were super excited, but didn't always know exactly what to do, as those of us who have been parents understand. One day Katie stopped wanting to nurse. No matter what Steve or Jen did, she did not want food. They knew she needed it to grow into a healthy young girl. They had to assume that because she didn't want to eat that she was sick. If you are a leader and don't want to continually get "fed" to assist you in continually growing into a better leader, are you sick? Do you really not want to improve on leading the greatest resource that you have, not for your sake, but for their sake?
As Katie got bigger, Steve and Jen taught her how to communicate with her hands using sign language. We did this with both of our children and one of the first signs that you teach them is "more," as seen in the picture to the right. When Katie was well, she communicated that she wanted "more" because she loved food and knew that it would satisfy her hunger. This should be our desire as leaders: to continually want "more" understanding of leadership so that we can lead our people as effectively as possible.
Feedback is the only way that we will really know how we are doing as leaders. So if we want more understanding, then we should want more feedback. The cool thing about feedback is that it not only helps you become a better leader of your people, but it continually deepens your relationships with your people, which then strengthens your trust within those relationships. It is a continually deepening cycle that helps to you to really know those you lead.
One amazing benefit is that if your people know that you want their input so that you can lead them better, even intentionally asking them for feedback, they will be more motivated to do the tasks you give them. They will begin to think less about themselves and more about supporting you, the team and how they can make the organization successful. (See my post on Give and You Shall Receive.)
Are you willing to make the first move and intentionally ask for feedback from those that mean the most to you? I challenge you to try this out today and throughout this week. You will be amazed at the impact it will have on you and those that you have the opportunity to lead.