A Wise Sage Talks About Feedback.
Many years ago, as a newly appointed manager, I had the opportunity to have a one to one dinner with our CEO. He was a very wise leader who was coming towards the end of his career and had seen it all. During dinner he asked me what I thought was one of the most important things for a CEO. I was a little shell shocked by the question. I think I went on about the importance of strategy in modern business.
He listened and smiled and after I finished he said “that is an interesting perspective, and it is important but what I have found over the years is that getting ‘feedback’ is like gold dust”.The higher up the ladder you go, the harder it is to find. Honest feedback is critical if you are to run your business successfully and to keep your finger on the pulse of what’s really going on for your customers and your team members. As you go up the corporate structure, people may filter, manipulate or even keep information from you. It’s no good driving your company over a cliff to hear a chorus of the passengers from the rear of the bus shouting before you hit the ground, “we saw the cliff coming but we did not want to upset you or we tried to tell you but you wouldn’t listen”.
It’s a conversation I still remember 25 years on and his insight has served me well. Timely, regular feedback is really critical in my opinion for effective leadership. I don’t just mean the once a year company survey that we all have experienced or the 360 degree feedback that we might engage in from time to time although they are important and have their place as they can give great insight at a snapshot in time. I am talking about creating a high performing environment where feedback is the norm. What I am suggesting is actively seeking feedback after every interaction by asking three simple questions;
- What went well?
- What didn’t go well?
- How could I/we make the interaction better the next time?
I use these questions after every interaction, meeting or coaching session I am involved in and it is amazing what I have learned by just asking these questions. I always ask the questions in this particular order because in a multicultural environment some people may not feel comfortable telling you what you didn’t do well but they are more inclined to tell you what could be better.