People in leadership positions are used to giving feedback. And the best ones are very good at doing it in a way that is both constructive and productive. But how good are they at receiving feedback? Do they take it constructively and productively?
Or perhaps the question should be how good would they be if they actually received any real feedback.
As Meg Crosby, a former Google exec who now runs her own company, PeopleCap Advisors, explained to Shana Lebowitz in a recent interview, the higher up the organisation you are, the more ‘filtered’ the feedback you receive will be. At every stage of transmission up the hierarchy, the more diluted the message becomes. In other words, if you really want to know what your people think about you, you’ll have to take the initiative to find out.
And it’s important that you do.
Joseph Folkman, President and co-founder of Zenger Folkman, observed in an article for Forbes that it is a better strategy for leaders to ask for feedback rather than wait in the hope of receiving it unsolicited. Far from being a sign of weakness, it actually takes courage. And if you ask in the right way, you are more likely to get the honest and considered responses you need rather than the flattery or blandness that can so easily lead people further down a wrong path.
Indeed, as research undertaken by Zenger Folkman strongly suggests, leaders who ask for feedback most often are also the most effective.