Feedback: Getting Great Insights From People Who Matter

As leaders, getting enough feedback on your leadership can sometimes be a challenge. Of course, it’s important to know what your boss thinks. What is equally important are the broader impressions your leadership is making up down and sideways. Today I share some formal and informal tools to get the conversation started.

Who Are You Asking for Feedback?

One of the most frequent questions folks ask me when starting a new mentoring relationship is, “what impressions do you have of me?”

In other words,

“What’s my brand?”

“What have you heard about me?”

“What have you observed?”

“How do you talk about me to others?”

Great questions. I believe in transparency and I always shoot straight. But the truth is, what I think may matter, but I am just one opinion.

After I answer their question, I ask a few of my own

  • Who else have you asked?
  • What are your peers saying?
  • What would your team say?
  • If you took a new job, what would the folks working for you today be texting to the new team?

The answer is frequently, “um…I haven’t really done much asking.”

The answers to “why not” vary

  • I hadn’t thought about it
  • I’ve been so busy
  •  I didn’t want to bother everyone
  •  … ?

Or if they are really honest.

  • I am scared of what I might hear
  • Then I might have to do something about it
  • …?

The thing is, people are talking about your strengths and opportunities in all kinds of contexts. Why not find out what they are saying?

Some Feedback Tools

There are many formal and informal ways of soliciting feedback. Using a deliberate approach to getting feedback is particularly valuable in helping to identify blind spots. It can also help you sort through the tricky landscape of overused strengths becoming weaknesses.

360 Feedback Tools

360 degree feedback tools can be invaluable for getting a comprehensive view. These tools enable your boss, your peers and your team to all rate you on various leadership dimensions and competencies. I find these tools work best when people take the time to offer comments and examples. I also highly recommend working with a coach to help you digest and take action on the feedback.

I have also seen many great examples of people doing this in a more informal way. Setting up time to get feedback from others, or using informal questionnaires to get feedback.

Informal Approaches

Even without formal tools, there are easy ways to open up the feedback conversation.

A simple, free online tool based on the Johari window, enables you to compare your perceived strengths to others you invite for feedback, click on this Johari Interactive tool to complete the assessment.

One reader, Sarah Parrish, recently sent me the questions she was using in her informal 360 poll. She has found the process and feedback valuable and so I share her questions.

· What are 3 words that you think of when thinking of my strengths?
· What are 3 words that you think of when thinking of my areas of improvement?
· Have you been able to benefit from working with me in the past? If so, how?
· Where could I have improved in our past interactions to help make your job easier?
· What makes me stand out from others either personally or professionally?
· What could I do differently to come off as more approachable?

I have also used a group approach with teams I lead. I have them work together on a list of feedback on what I am doing that is helpful, what they need more of, what they need less of, and how I am getting in their way. Then I come back in the room and we work together on solutions. This one can be risky and the team and relationships need to be in a mature place, but each time I have done it I have learned so much.

Asking questions about your leadership can be a fantastic way to grow. It’s vital that you are open and ready to receive it.

Please comment and share:

What ways do you collect feedback to improve your leadership?

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Karin Hurt

Karin Hurt, is CEO of Let’s Grow Leaders and a former Verizon Wireless executive. Karin was named on Inc.’s list of 100 Great Leadership Speakers for Your Next Conference, the American Management Association List of 50 Leaders to Watch, and as a Trust Across America Top Thought Leader in Trust. She’s the award-winning author of two books, Winning Well: A Manager’s Guide to Getting Results— Without Losing Your Soul, and Overcoming an Imperfect Boss. She’s regularly featured in business publications including Fast Company, Entrepreneur, and Inc.


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  2. I tried the Johari Window with the results from the Personal Brand Survey. I think overall the results and breakdown were interesting. I will add the results to my professional portfolio.

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