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Improve your leadership skills by asking for and giving feedback as part of your individual development plan
As a Leadership Practices Inventory® Coach, I have learned that any leader can improve their leadership capabilities. This is the perfect time of year to create your individual development plan for the coming year. Here, I’d like to offer some thoughts about what to be sure to include that will make a difference in how others experience you as a leader.
It’s a privilege to coach all levels of leaders—from new manager to seasoned executive—in the context of the LPI® assessment, a 360-degree assessment that measures the frequency a leader engages in the 30 leadership behaviors behind Kouzes and Posner’s The Leadership Challenge. I appreciate the opportunity to meet someone, get a glimpse into how other people view them as a leader, then work together to find ways to help them improve.
THE TALE OF THREE EXEMPLARY LEADERS
In a recent round of coaching conversations, I spoke with three leaders who stood out as exemplary leaders. Across the board, their raters had given them a frequency rating of 9 out of 10 or higher, corresponding with “Very Frequent” to “Almost Always” on the Likert scale. In the comments section, there were glowing testimonies about how each leader was, “the best manager I ever had.”
I asked these leaders how they achieved such positive appraisals from all their direct reports and colleagues: All three leaders had received leadership training that included feedback on specific behaviors that measured their past performance–and all three made a concerted effort to practice these behaviors in order to improve. According to Kouzes and Posner, going from good to great takes deliberate practice and it was clear those leaders put in the work.
FEEDBACK IS A GIFT
In the leadership development field, we say feedback is a gift because it provides self-awareness and a direction in which to focus. These leaders stood out because they treated their feedback with that sense of significance.
“It was the awareness of what I needed to do that made a difference for me.”
One of the leaders, Gary, said, “It was the awareness of what I needed to do that made a difference for me.” Shauna’s response was similar. She said, “I really took the feedback to heart and started practicing. It’s rewarding to see that I moved the needle.”
One of the areas that stood out in Shauna’s report was a perfect 10 score on her philosophy of leadership. When I asked how she achieved that rating from all her direct reports, she told me that she put a note on her door stating the things that mattered to her. One of her values was feedback, specifically appreciating honest feedback. She felt that communicating this regularly, even with a sign on the door, helped her foster relationships in which there was more active sharing—allowing for real time response.
Asking for feedback can make us feel vulnerable, which is why it’s considered one of the most difficult things to put into practice. You may think that others will perceive you as less competent if you ask them open-ended questions about your impact after an interaction. Or, you may just feel awkward. However, the benefits far outweigh the perceived discomfort. More often, people will interpret your willingness to receive feedback as a desire to learn. It also models to them that they can do the same, in the spirit of growth.
The benefits of asking for feedback far outweigh the perceived discomfort; people will see you want to learn and you'll show them that they can do the same.
The Leadership Challenge® focuses on Five Practices of Exemplary Leadership®. Research shows that a leader who practices these more frequently will have more success with their constituents. Asking for feedback will support you in all the practices. The chance of being called, “the best manager I ever had” is the motivation we all need to start making an effort today.