When my son was younger, he would follow my feedback to the "T"...most of the time. As my son has grown older, he has begun to make his own decisions. I found it really interesting as we bouldered at the Pinnacles, just north of Big Bear Lake, CA, that he began to really determine his own paths even when I would tell him, "I think this way is easier," or "This way is faster." He had begun to find his own way. Sometimes he would take a step or two, then heed to my feedback and end up following me. But as the day went on, we learned to listen to each other more with each climb. Trust began to develop between us, even in our climbing. That trust helped me to learn that I didn't have to be the leader all the time. Actually, I found it rewarding to see Luke taking risks in front of me and then to see him get the reward first when he reached the top and saw the view. The smile on his face was totally worth me being the follower for that climb.
As I reflect back on that time, I have to say that sometimes I wished that Luke would have listened and followed my feedback to the "T" like he used to, but I realized that it was a good character trait that at least HE DID SOMETHING. He didn't just stand there to determine if my feedback was accurate and waste time. He did something and even found better routes to the top of the cliffs at times.
Do you want to influence your people? Do you want to increase the level of respect you receive from them? Do you want to deepen your relationship with them? First, overcome your fears and ask for feedback (see my last post). However, when you ask for it, you need to be ready to take the next step (and this is a big one): you have to DO SOMETHING with the feedback... ANYTHING, but you have to do something to try to use it.
In my past, I once observed a senior manager I knew for a number of years. He seemed like a really nice person, but the leaders (managers) that reported to him had a significant number of trust issues with him. As I had discussions with them, I found out that there were a number of reasons why they didn't trust him; he did not support them at times in meetings nor did he always fight for them to get the resources they needed to do their jobs well. When they asked me for leadership guidance, I would ask if they had talked to him about the challenges that they were having with him. Every single one of them said that they had given him feedback on their needs for his assistance and yet he did not make many significant changes. This manager even did a 360-degree review in his area and I thought, "Well, maybe now he is really going to try to get better."
Unfortunately, that was not the case in many ways. Even though he ran the review, when he received the results he was perceived as not doing anything significant to change his behavior or to learn how to lead his people better. This perceived lack of action made the trust level in his area go even lower. Do you think those managers gave him any more feedback? I think many of us have seen challenging situations similar to this.
I have worked in a lot of places, and unfortunately, this is not abnormal. I think the intention of some leaders is good and right, but the easy part is gaining the feedback. The hard part, the part that has the most impact on your leadership, is taking action on the feedback that you receive. What have you done with the feedback that you received? Did you do anything with it?
I had an awesome team at one time where we had developed very authentic relationships with each other. During a meeting that included Sam, one of my direct reports, I felt like I may have said something too quickly and sternly. At that moment, I saw a woman at the meeting disengage. She motioned as if she was going to say something, but then her whole body language changed and she didn't say anything for the rest of the meeting.
After the meeting ended, Sam approached me and said, "Paul, can I give you some feedback?"
I said, "Yes, you know that."
He continued to ask if I had noticed the woman mentioned earlier disengage from the meeting. I confirmed that I did, in fact, notice. I knew that I needed to ACT on the feedback I was given, so I contacted this woman and asked if we could meet. She agreed and during our conversation, I immediately apologized and told her that I didn't mean to speak so sternly. I also asked her what she wanted to say during the meeting because I wanted to hear it. We had a great conversation and our relationship now is much deeper than it was before. I also believe that my relationship with Sam deepened that day. I respected him for overcoming the fear to give me feedback and he respected me for listening to him and then ACTING on it.
Feedback is very challenging to receive and even harder to take action on, but it can be done. More importantly, it has huge benefits in deepening your relationships and in your growth as a leader. Have you received feedback in the last year but have not done anything with it? I challenge you to go apologize to those people that gave it to you and then ACT ON IT. Ask them to help hold you accountable to change. This will not only help you become a better leader, but it will also send a huge signal to those people that gave you feedback that you care about them enough to listen. This isn't easy, but really moves us toward becoming more humble and servant-hearted. You can do it! Do it today.