About two years ago I had the unique opportunity of going to lunch with one of the vice presidents of my corporation. She was very successful, and she earned her success very quickly. She was in her mid 30′s and most other VP’s are in their late 40′s to early 50′s. I was very curious to know how she has been so successful so quickly. When I asked her what the key to her success was, she said that it was feedback.
So what is feedback? The definition of feedback on dictionary.com is, “evaluative information derived from such a reaction or response.” When I think of constructive feedback, I think of the critiques I have received from those around me. I have had experiences where people have told me what I was doing wrong so that I could improve. I have also had experiences where I was told that the things I did worked, and I should continue to do the same.
So in the corporate world, who should you ask for feedback? I would recommend you obtain the following four types of feedback.
Feedback from those you lead
Those you lead see you differently than everyone else. They see your flaws and strengths as a leader from a follower perspective. In many cases, you are not the first leader they have had and you probably won’t be the last leader they will have. They have seen how the previous leader handled situations, and they now see how you are leading. They can recognize the good and the bad of how you lead. When you ask them for feedback, you must create an environment where they feel comfortable and have your trust. If they don’t trust you, they won’t share how they really feel with you. When you ask them for feedback, you must be humble and willing to listen.
Some questions you can ask are: What am I doing that works for you or helps you to be better? What am I doing that needs improvement from your perspective? How have the differences in my leadership style affected you? Do you feel like your opinions are being heard by me as your leader? You can also ask questions about specific projects or programs that you have implemented.
Feedback from those that lead with you
The people you lead with are often on the same level as you which makes their feedback very valuable. You probably find yourself in a lot of meetings with these same-level leaders. They see how you lead amongst your peers and can see how you run and participate in meetings. They also see how you interact with others from the perspective of another leader.
Feedback from your leaders
When you lead, your leader can give you the type of feedback that comes in the form of guidance. Because they are your leader, they have most likely been in your situation before. In many cases, your leader has done similar things as you. They also probably have experience in similar challenges as those you will face. Take advantage of their experience and get their feedback. When you face challenges, ask them for advice. Also, if you have feelings that you do things a certain way, don’t be afraid to bounce your idea off of them. If you get feedback from your leader, their feedback can help you to avoid potential pitfalls.
Feedback from your customers
Every leader has customers. Some of those customers include stock holders, community citizens, people that will purchase your product, etc. Whether or not you are successful as a leader has a lot to do with how you treat your customers and whether or not they are satisfied. It is very important to know what your customers want and whether or not they are pleased with what you are delivering. Ask them for feedback on a regular basis so you can keep them happy.
As a leader, you are not perfect and you probably have many weaknesses. By asking for feedback regularly, you can find out what others see as your weaknesses. You can actively work to fix them and change so that you can be better. On of the worse things that can happen to a leader is a blindside. You never want to get caught off guard by something that others see that you have missed. Another benefit of feedback is that it helps you to fix issues before they arrive.
How has feedback helped you as a leader? How do you ask for feedback? What lessons have you learned through feedback? Please share your thoughts in the comments section below!