Effective leaders use feedback to their advantage

The end of year is always a time for reflection. It allows us all to take a minute and step back from our chaotic lives to try and put some things in perspective. This is a perfect time to review your year as a leader.

As you think about 2012, what sticks out to you? Was it the new product that your company finally launched after years of blood, sweat, caffeine, and tears? Did you push your team to take risks and, if so, what were the outcomes?

Now think about areas where you can improve. Do you struggle to provide structure and systematic focus for your projects? Have you been too controlling when it comes to delegation?

If you’re not sure how to answer where you can improve upon, it sounds like you could use a healthy dose of feedback. As the leader, you are used to giving feedback to your employees and work to help turn weaknesses into strengths, whenever possible. But if you believe you don’t need feedback or don’t have the time, you are misguided.

It’s important to know how others perceive you and for you to learn how to respond positively to suggestions for change. Effective leaders are open to feedback, both positive and negative, and will use it to improve their performance. They monitor relationships with colleagues and deal straightforwardly with issues as they arise.

Leader who aren’t open to feedback are many times perceived as defensive, arrogant, or fearful of looking at their shortcomings. This is because shutting out the observations and perceptions of others limits your growth and development. Chances are pretty good that, over time, you have developed blind spots as a leader.

Whether it’s an informal discussion or your company participates in the 360 feedback process, be open to feedback. After all, one major takeaway from feedback is knowing the skills that need improved upon so you can create a personal development plan to renew focus on goals and objectives.

Just because it’s not an iPad mini, doesn’t mean that feedback can’t be considered a gift. Do you really want to be that leader who operates with blind spots on a day-to-day basis? We didn’t think so.

Keep these tips in mind when you receive feedback:

  • Defensiveness is a major blockage to accurate and comprehensive self-knowledge. Defensive people overrate themselves in the eyes of others. If you are seen as denying your faults, you may get jumped on when people finally get the chance to give you feedback. Their evaluations of you may be lower than justified because they think the message has to be louder to get through your defensive shields.
  • To break the cycle, follow the rules of good listening without responding, then write down the criticisms and reflect on which ones might have some element of truth in them. Choose one area in which to focus your development. People will be pleased that you are responding, and the amount of negative feedback should decrease.
  • Seek feedback regarding instances when you may have reacted without considering others’ feelings. Apologize to people when you have hurt or ignored them.
  • If employees view you as unapproachable, determine what you do to give this impression. Do they see you regularly? Do you appear uninterested in their problems? Do you become angry when people tell you about problems? Try to see yourself as your employees see you and decide what you want to change.
  • When you meet people, concentrate on developing effective working relationships. Focus on self-awareness and what you need to do to make the relationship work. Communicate openly about what you need, and ask others what they need to make the relationship successful.

When you learn to view feedback in a positive way, you’re that much closer to being that type of leader you’ve always imaged you would be.

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