Most people would agree that performance feedback is an important part of the development of any individual. And while I’m not a fan of the traditional Performance Appraisal process, I’m a huge fan of ongoing, honest, growth-oriented feedback. It’s a simple fact that people improve faster with feedback than without feedback. An honest outside perspective of your performance can go a long way in identifying areas of development and improving one’s performance.
Managers and executives should routinely provide feedback to those around them as a way to further serve both the individual and the organization. As an executive, keeping my thoughts to myself on performance helps neither the individual involved, nor the organization. In fact, I would argue that failure to provide adequate constructive feedback does a grave disservice to all involved. After all, how can an individual or an organization develop without it?
Having said that, it leads to a further question that must be answered: as an executive, where do you go to get honest feedback on your performance?
Just because someone has reached the executive ranks should not imply that they are somehow perfect, without flaw or weakness, and, therefore, no longer in need of honest feedback. In fact, the exact opposite may well be true. While we received a lot of feedback earlier in our career, the nature of our jobs as executives demands that we receive more feedback than ever, while the political nature of the beast actually leads to less feedback.
Think about it. Early in our career we had a variety of bosses, and an even larger variety of peers, who were willing and even anxious to provide us with feedback. But as we progressed up the management chain, we suddenly find ourselves with a smaller variety of bosses and certainly many less peers who are willing and able to assist us in our development.
Let’s use the analogy of a golfer.
As an amateur golfer I might take some golf lessons as a way to improve my game. The instructor provides me with feedback on my swing and approach to the game. As I play more I may watch players who are better than I am to see what I can learn from them. Some, seeing promise in my swing, may even play the role of a de-facto coach to help me continue to improve. With my eye on turning pro, I may invest in a quality personal coach to further my development. By now, my major swing flaws have been identified and fixed, but there are still many subtle aspects of the game that I need to perfect to truly master the game. Finally, I turn pro and find myself winning championships!
Truly I have mastered the game.
Except that I haven’t, have I. Ask anyone who watches professional golf and they will tell you that great players, professional players, occasionally fall into bad habits, make mistakes, or forget key aspects of their game. Even the best professional golfers find that they need someone to give them an outside perspective of their game, view their stroke with a set of unbiased eyes, and make them aware of their blind spots. Without an unbiased, honest feedback mechanism even the best golfers will lose their way.
The same is true for executives. While we may have “taken the lessons” of leadership, we sometimes fall into bad habits and forget the very things that made us great. And the higher we get in our organization, the more difficult it becomes to get the feedback that we all so desperately need.
Where do you go for feedback? Who is it that helps you maintain your swing and helps you be the best executive that you can be?
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Until next time.....
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