On my radio show I recently interviewed Dave Brookmire from Corporate Performance Strategies. Near the end of the interview, he offhandedly uttered one of those profound and notably tweetable statements: "Most leaders that fail, fail to get feedback."
Those words reminded me that as much as I would like to claim my success as my own, I can't. I am the product of the feedback from those whom I have chosen to surround me.
If you are a leader and don't have a selection of formal and informal feedback loops, get some. Here is what has worked for me:
Keep a Top Five
I have a set of mentors that I call my "top five." Each one provides me with a different perspective on the business ideas or concepts I am considering. And each perspective is important in my ultimate decision to move forward or not.
One of my advisers I call my "dark shadow." He usually tries to talk me out of an idea and keeps me grounded in the risks and rewards. I also have an "encourager" who thinks I can and should do everything that I am considering. And of course there's my wife, whose perspective is most important and who is the only one who knows how my decisions might impact us personally and if it supports our long term goals.
Hire a Coach
While I get free advice from my top five, I have found that hiring a good coach is worth every dollar I pay. Of course a coach can provide you with feedback and expertise, but his or her most important work is developing an action plan that makes you accountable to your goals and provides you with the guideposts you need to measure progress.
Meeting with your coach on a consistent basis makes you address issues that you might otherwise easily ignore.
Join a Group
If you aren't quite ready to work with a coach on a one-to-one basis, you should at least seek out a group that has the purpose of helping you improve a specific aspect of your leadership.
My Vistage group's feedback was a tremendous influence in my decision to leave my last company. My Toastmaster's club has helped me perfect my ability to deliver speeches and host my radio show effectively. And my YEC group is a valuable resource for moving my company forward, connecting me with people all over the country who provide me with unbiased feedback on new marketing materials, a new service idea or sales tactic.
Ask Your Coworkers
The people who work for you and with you on a day-to-day basis know you the best. You must establish a safe and anonymous way to solicit and collect their feedback. Accomplishing this goal often requires bringing in a third party or creating a truly anonymous survey, especially if it's your company and/or you are the boss.
One more thing. Once you receive the feedback, act on it. If you don't, no one will respond when you ask again, and it will be more detrimental to your leadership than having not asked for it in the first place. Dave recommends you specifically call out the feedback you have received and explain how you have addressed it. This shows you care and that you are willing to listen.