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3 Ways to Get the Feedback We Need | LinkedIn

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September 05, 2013

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Recently my wife and I attended a formal evening event. After getting dressed, I turned to her for approval.

“How do I look?” I asked.

She sized me up for a few moments. Then she sniffed a couple times. That’s never a good sign.

“Your shoes smell,” she said finally.

At the Center for Creative Leadership, we always tell our clients that feedback is a gift. But this particular feedback didn’t feel like one.

I was, after all, wearing clean socks with brand new shoes; they hadn’t even been worn once! I told her so.

“Well,” she said. “There’s something wrong with them.”

I sniffed them and had to agree. Maybe the leather was bad? Or the way they’d been packaged? In the end, we used a spray on them, which improved the situation. And later that night at the event, I’ll have to admit, I really was grateful that she’d told me the truth before a stranger did.

Feedback of any kind is an invaluable mirror. If we’re fortunate, we grew up surrounded by a lot of mirrors – and they reflected important truths that we might have otherwise ignored. We had parents, teachers, coaches, relatives and clergy who didn’t hesitate to praise us for good effort or look us in the eye and tell us when we weren’t living up to our ability or their expectations.

The older we get and the farther we move up the organizational chart, however, the more those mirrors tend to get tossed in a closet. We don’t have nearly as many people to answer to, and, even if we genuinely request feedback, the women and men who work for us are usually hesitant to tell us what they really think, especially if they think we’re wrong.

Unhealthy things start to happen. For one, we grow overconfident. If we’re not being challenged enough and things are going reasonably well, it’s pretty easy to believe we’re smarter than we actually are and stop listening to our colleagues. Arrogance is never a good thing, and it’s usually at the root of scandals and poor decisions in business and government around the world. We also slip into complacency, feeling satisfied to rest on our achievements rather than striving to improve. We can lose focus on cultivating what Stanford University psychologist Carol Dweck calls a growth mindset – a belief that we never really know the full extent of our potential, that we can always get better with hard work and practice.

If overconfidence and complacency undermine effective leadership, feedback offers a powerful corrective. Here are three ways to get it:

First, take advantage of formal feedback experiences through leadership training programs, 360-degree assessments, executive coaching and mentoring programs. They are all powerful ways to learn what people really think about our leadership skills and develop a plan for strengthening them. In all likelihood, though, we will have these formal opportunities only occasionally. That’s why very, very few of us ever receive enough feedback on how we’re doing – and why very, very few of us ever reach our full potential.

So, second, it’s crucial to help our teammates feel comfortable with giving us direct and frequent feedback. In my organization, we use our Situation-Behavior-Impact approach, which helps deliver feedback in a safe, non-confrontational way. When they give feedback, our colleagues are trained to describe the situation, or where and when a behavior occurred. Then they describe the specific behaviors that could be improved. Finally, they pinpoint the impact of the behavior. For example, “During our strategy meeting this afternoon (Situation), you cut short Rick’s briefing and then waved your hand dismissively (Behavior). He had some good points to make that didn’t get heard, and others were too intimidated to share their own thoughts (Impact). This same approach should be used to deliver positive feedback as well. And after we are given any feedback, we should always say thank you.

Third, we should be sure to build strong feedback loops into our daily routine, so we’re always learning and improving. We need to rehang those mirrors. We can do that by creating our own personal board of directors, a trusted group of family, friends and colleagues we can count on for honest appraisals of our actions. My wife is the chair of my own board. My twin brother, daughters and a small group of friends and professional colleagues are also key members. I turn to them routinely to bounce around ideas, discuss specific challenges and solicit their overall insights. I don’t always like what they say. The less I like it, though, the more helpful it seems to be.

Posted by:John Ryan

via 3 Ways to Get the Feedback We Need | LinkedIn.


Born in 1964, business owner, from Woodbridge, VA, owns ExcitingAds! Inc. ( and blog ( He was born in Mirpurkhas, Sind, Pakistan. His elementary school was ST. Michael's Convent High School, Mirpurkhas, Sind, Pakistan. Graduated high school from ST. Bonaventure's Convent High School, Hyderabad, Sind, Pakistan. His pre-med college was S. A. L. Govt. College, Mirpurkas, Sind, Pakistan. Graduated from Liaquat University of Medical and Health Sciences, Jamshoro, Sind, Pakistan in 1990. Earned equivalency certification from Educational Commission for Foreign Medical Graduates, Philadelphia, PA in 1994.

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