Even with thousands of new leadership books on Amazon.com, creative wrappers on time-tested leadership principles, or blogs like this one it doesn't seem to move the needle.
After studying the assessments of over 20,000 leaders from our Welder Leader research, there is a way for you to improve as a leader much quicker than traditional thinking. It can be simplified in one simple word: Feedback.
Specifically asking your people for feedback on how you are doing and how you can improve. Bill Gates famously said, "we all need people who give us feedback, that's how we improve." No one knows you better than the people you lead and its evident leaders at every level of our research aren't asking for feedback from their people often enough in order to improve.
Why Leaders Don't Get Good Feedback
There are many reasons leaders don't ask or receive good feedback but the top two are ego (opening up to criticism) and team members fearing losing their job if they give feedback. Regardless, if it's a leader with too much ego to ask or people too afraid to give it, the lack of feedback is causing leaders not to improve and be as good as they could be.
Whether you are great at asking for feedback or not, the simple act of genuinely asking how you are doing and how you could improve will be one of the most powerful things you can do to improve and better connect with your team.
Here are 3 things to keep in mind if you decide it's time for you to take the plunge and open yourself up to receiving feedback from your team:
1. Ask for feedback and listen to it carefully
Mark Jenkins said "Asking for feedback is not enough. Leaders need to listen to it and carefully evaluate it." I had a manager years ago that asked during annual reviews if there was anything he needed to improve on. When I told him, he used the dictatorial management style a little too much. His response was, "Well, no one ever said that before." In fact, this guy's only management style was the dictator, so of course, everyone was afraid to tell him.
Asking for feedback is one thing. Actually listening and changing behavior because of it is the most important thing.
2. Create a safe zone to receive feedback
If you are the leader of the team there is a high likelihood that you either have the power to fire someone on your team or can heavily influence that outcome. By the nature of the situation, people are going to be hesitant to provide direct or critical feedback unless you find a safe zone to do it. One of the best ways we have found when delivering the Welder Leader 360° Assessment is to have the feedback come digitally and anonymously so people have the freedom, to be honest without fear of repercussion.
3. Devise a plan to improve
It can be tough to be exposed to your shortcomings or areas people think you can improve. The real challenge is what you do with that knowledge. Come up with a plan or a set of action items to tackle the most important gaps first and then get to work. How well you develop and retain people is what makes a great leader.