If you want to improve as a business leader, it’s important to be open to hearing feedback and to be willing to change your behaviors. Here are three keys to effectively receiving feedback:
1. Don’t Gloss Over the Positives
Many people skip over the positive comments and go directly to the negatives. That’s a big mistake. Your best chance to becoming a great business leader is to build on your strengths. Don’t take them for granted. Be open to learning about what you do well.
2. Don’t be Paralyzed by Criticism
Criticism is not poisnonous. It will not kill you. It represents another person’s perspective on your performance. Listen to it and consider it carefully. See if there is anything in the criticism you can leverage to improve your performance, but don’t allow the criticism to paralyze you from ever trying to lead again.
3. Willingness to Learn, Not Defend
Ultimately, the value of receiving feedback is based on your willingness to learn rather than to defend yourself. If your first reaction is to always defend yourself in the face of any negative feedback, then you are unlikely to ever really improve as a business leader.
If you are the highest ranking person at a meeting, then you automatically play an important role in the development of the people in the room. Because of your title, you will be able to do something that other peope aren’t allowed to do. You will be able to dominate the flow of the conversation in the room because others might feel uncomfortable cutting you off in front of their peers.
It’s up to you to not allow that to happen.
If you offer every thought the second that you have it, you will cut off opportunities for other people to exchange ideas in meaningful conversations. If you keep your thoughts to yourself, other people will be able to step forward and exchange ideas with other people in the room. By staying quiet and observing you will actually create breathing room for other people to develop. You might think you’re doing nothing, but you’re actually doing something very, very imporant. It’s called creating a learning environment, a place where people can learn from each other.
If you give your thoughts every thirty minutes or so, people can learn from you and you can learn from them.
To establish your business strategy, answer this series of basic questions in a clear way with realistic answers:
1. What are the most important objectives we want to achieve this year and why are these the most important objectives both for this year’s success and for our future success?
2. How will we achieve these objectives successfully this year and set ourselves up for success in the future?
3. How will our approach reinforce our desired brand and why is this approach better than the alternatives?
4. Who will do what when we execute this approach and why are they the best people for these roles?
5. When will we execute each part of this approach and why is this the best schedule of activities?
6. Where will these activities take place?
7. How will we measure our progress and when will we step back to determine if any course corrections need to be made?
Take your time to answer those questions in a clear manner so that everyone in your organization understands the answers. Hone them to the point that another person could read the answers and be able to explain what will happen over the next year and why it is a good direction for the business.
As a business leader, one way you can influence how other people think is to step back and observe the other person in action and then share your observations with that person in a private one-to-one conversation. When you reference actual behaviors and then discuss those with the other person, you remove yourself from theoretical discussions and move toward practical discussions that can be applied in upcoming situations.
This approach does require an investment of time. You have to set aside several hours just to sit and observe the other person. You have to then set aside time to share your observations with that person and to discuss those observations. You then need to set up follow-up times to further discuss how the other person is implementing any changes in his or her approach and how those changes are working out. You might even set up another time to observe the person in action.
However, the investment can have a tremendous payoff if the other person performs more effectively in the future.
Every 45 days answer these seven questions:
1. What were the two most important outcomes I wanted to improve for my organization over the past 45 days?
2. What was actually achieved regarding those two objectives?
3. What did I do as a business leader to try to improve those outcomes?
4. What worked well and why did it work well?
5. What did not work well and why did it not work well?
6. What leadership lessons did I learn or relearn over the past 45 days?
7. What will I do the same as a leader and what will I do differently over the next 45 days to improve my performance as a business leader and improve the high-priority desired outcomes for my organization?
You need friends outside of work.
When all of your meaningful relationships are at work, you might eventually say something to someone that will damage your work relationships and hurt the impact of your efforts. If you only turn to your spouse with your career frustrations and aspirations, you may burn out your marriage. Your spouse might start feeling like your psychotherapist or counselor and not like your husband or wife.
You need friends you can just relax with. You need friends you can turn to for companionship and to vent with and to discuss work situations without any possible repercussions at work. If you try to go it alone all the time, that lone eagle approach can backfire. It can evolve into dangerous loneliness and can cause you to turn to drugs or alcohol. It might cause you to have an affair and really damage your marriage or your relationship with your significant other.
Investing time and energy in friendships outside of work can have the added benefit of making you an even more effective leader at work. And those friendships can help you maintain a healthy peace of mind. As long as you don’t go overboard, those friendships can also help you maintain a strong marriage.
Self-esteem is not the value you can bring to a situation. Self-esteem is the value you see within yourself.
When an executive’s self-esteem is poor, it manifests itself in the workplace in a number of negative, and oftentimes dangerous, ways. In order to feel better, the executive with poor self-esteem will publicly humiliate other people, start rumors, and make the final decision on all matters. There are two reasons these things happen. First, by putting others down he or she hopes to look higher up to other people. Second, since the excecutive with poor self-esteem doesn’t want other people to find out how little value he or she can really bring to a situation, the person doesn’t want there to be any mistakes that might expose his or her weaknesses, and, consequently, doesn’t allow other people to make decisions that might cause poor results.
The executive with strong self-esteem is able to act as a true business leader. He or she allows other people to make decisions and is comfortable in dealing with the ramifications of giving other people well-defined autonomy. This type of executive turns these situations into learning experiences rather than as moments that affect his or her self-esteem.
I encourage you to write down your strengths and the value you bring to your organization. Read it over and add to it. Understanding your value will help keep you from micromanaging other people and humiliating them.