“I think it’s very important to have a feedback loop, where you’re constantly thinking about what you’ve done and how you could do it better.”
— Elon Musk
Feedback. We’re always being asked to give it, ask for it, and act on it. It’s not just a shorthand for “Is everything OK?” — It’s actually an incredibly powerful personal development tool you can use to better yourself, your leadership team, and your peers.
I’ll be honest, it’s not always easy — Asking other executives for feedback creates an implicit “What do you think of me?” in every question. Fortunately, that feeling of vulnerability comes with valuable insight. It will help you grow professionally and personally, transform the way you lead, and increase your success and happiness.
I’ve learned some valuable lessons encouraging leadership teams to embrace feedback, here are the most important.
If you’re not feeling vulnerable, you’re probably doing it wrong
Feedback invites risk, and risk makes us uncomfortable — It’s difficult to predict what others will say when they’re asked. It’s natural to feel this way, just realize this is where the most powerful insights come from. There’s risk, but the reward will give you and your leadership team new ways to grow.
Get past the issues of “trust” — You’re all in this together
You might feel you’re in competition with your peers, or that they don’t know enough about you to be reliable and objective. This is where integrity comes in. Understand you’re all working toward a common goal — Better leadership. Improve your relationships with other execs through mutual respect, communicating well, and acting with integrity.
“A company is people. Employees want to know – am I being listened to or am I a cog in the wheel? People really need to feel wanted.”
— Richard Branson
Never ask for “general” feedback — No-one has the time
People, especially time-starved executives, love specifics. You know your strengths and weaknesses and you almost certainly know areas you need to improve. Focus your questions around those areas — Dive into them and ask your peers what they think and how you could improve.
Always be respectful — It opens more doors
No point of view or piece of feedback is invalid — It’s real to the person giving it. Even when points of view vary, it’s important to be respectful. The old phrases of “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you,” and “don’t talk about people behind their backs” are as important in the boardroom as they were in the schoolyard. Treat your peers the way you want them to treat you and don’t say or do anything you’ll later regret.
I am a believer in trying to treat people properly and trying to respond and finding the time to be courteous.
— Richard Branson
Always be truthful — Integrity is everything
The most important part of business is Integrity. This means being open and honest, keeping promises and being a person your peers and teams can count on. When you’re giving feedback, be honest, respectful, and kind. That will build integrity between your leadership team and provide a great example to people throughout your business.
Work and grow together — It magnifies your efforts
You may find a member of your peer group who has a unique insight into you. If that’s the case, look into setting up a mentor program with them. You can enhance each other’s strengths and get rid of the weaknesses. This type of mutual mentorship is a powerful way to improve and builds better relationships.
Finally, act on the feedback
Feedback only works if it’s followed by action. Take what you’ve learned, and create actions and goals for you and your leadership team. Seek out new training, challenge yourself, take direct control of your development. Use other’s feedback to light the way and remember — Our personal and professional growth is never truly over.