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Feedback helps leaders learn to let the action show
Feedback is the most beneficial way of knowing how our behavior is contributing to engagement and performance. It’s interesting that research shows the higher in the organization a leader rises, the less likely he/she is to ask for and receive authentic feedback. Why don’t most of us make it a habit to actively seek out feedback from others?
A leader’s attitude toward receiving feedback impacts its value, so checking beliefs can help make feedback less averse:
- Is feedback seen as criticism or opportunity?
- Does the leader know it matters how their behavior impacts others?
- Can behavior be owned instead of justified away?
- Can feedback be used for 'feedforward' with ways to improve?
How to get feedback in a meaningful way
Using a 360-degree feedback instrument is a formal way to solicit feedback from all points of view, but all 360 assessments are not created equal. It makes sense to choose one that not only provides important benchmarking of current leadership behaviors, but also launches leaders on their development journey.
The Leadership Practices Inventory® (LPI) is an excellent tool to use because it is one of few evidence-based 360 feedback assessments, meaning that it measures what it says it measures: exemplary leadership.
As a frequency and behavior-based model, the feedback is presented in a way that provides a roadmap for the leader to identify areas of growth. Leaders decides where they want to stretch by taking actionable steps to demonstrate the leadership behaviors more often, using the knowledge gained from how they currently exhibit exemplary leadership behaviors.
The first step for making the most of 360-degree assessments is learning how to participate in the test and read the results:
- Choose observers who will give honest and valid feedback including a manager, direct reports, co-workers, and others. It’s important for leaders to let observers know the feedback will be valuable in helping the leader become more effective.
- One the leader receives the report, trusting the feedback and giving it meaning is the next task.
- Look for consistency in the ratings to see whether the leader’s view of their behavior is in alignment with how others see them. This also helps the leader identify where he or she may act and behave differently across settings and with various rater groups.
- Seek opportunities for improvement by looking at how frequently a leader engages in the behaviors and where they are ranked from high to low. This helps a leader understand where they are behaving more comfortably and often.
- Find themes and messages in the essay questions on the LPI to see how observers support and clarify the frequency data.
How to turn feedback into action
Once leaders have reviewed their report many times, noting themes and patterns, it’s time to move forward with deciding where to put their attention for growth. For leaders to “own” their feedback, they must trust and embrace the feedback received to sustain their leadership development.
The best option is for leaders to identify two or three leadership behaviors that would benefit them, their team, and their organization if they would do them more often.
Leaders then drill down on what each behavior looks like in their organization. This self-reflection is at the heart of practice and change.
- What opportunities do they have to take action?
- What would they say or do?
- What language would they use?
For example: if a leader decided to work on “asks what we can learn when things don’t go as expected”, in what circumstances could that question be asked with the team?
Roadblocks are common when leaders identify new behaviors to practice, otherwise they would already be doing them with higher frequency.
Other resources can be very useful in helping a leader take the action they want. Managers, trusted co-workers, and coaches can support and offer suggestions. They can ask what is getting in the way or if there is organizational support to help the leader. Coaches are especially helpful in helping leaders leverage their strengths.
Leaders may be committed to their growth, but find it challenging to follow up on what they intend to do. Setting up a system of accountability is one way to keep their leadership development roadmap in front of them. This can be as simple as their own personal reminders or more formal method such as coaching, peer meetings, or management support.
After a leader has success at taking actionable steps on the chosen behaviors, it’s time to seek feedback again on whether others have seen and benefited from their efforts. Leaders’ confidence will be boosted as they have enhanced awareness by seeking out more informal feedback. Once a leader has comfort with certain behaviors, they can be encouraged to re-evaluate and choose a few more to improve.
Seeking feedback is not always easy, but The LPI 360 is an amazing tool and vehicle for implementing a sustainable leadership development journey. At any moment in time, a leader has an opportunity to focus on behaviors that will make him or her an extraordinary leader.