Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Team Leader Feedback - Use It!

A strong leader always seeks feedback. And not just from the traditional sources. 

Leaders expect to get feedback from their superiors--it is part of the process. Really good leaders find ways to get unvarnished feedback from their team and even from their peers--whether through formalized 360 degree assessments or through informal actions. Really exceptional leaders also geet feedback from outsiders and customers and then do a remarkable thing--they use it to their advantage.

The key is getting the feedback and making it useful.

Feedback often is not "nice" and may not make us feel too good about ourselves--especially the informal kind that comes from non-traditional sources. It often leaves us saying: that's not me, or  looking for reasons why the view presented is skewed or does not match with reality. Our nature is to discard feedback inconsistent with our view of the team or ourselves.

I recently received feedback from a promotion cycle which was not consistent with independent feedback I had received from two other sources. It was painful to read (as it was all distilled down) that I was considered qualified in the only area the other two sources noted as my weakest area and that I was not considered qualified in areas considered my strongest--and in which I had received validation only months before from another official government process that I was considered fully qualified in all areas.

Am I going to discard the feedback because it is inconsistent? No. I'm trying to understand the differences and use the feedback to make me more competative the next time around. The feedback is valid, but was unexpected. I need to use the feedback to improve myself and to ensure my qualifications more clearly match the standards.

Team leaders need to do the same type of assessment. When seemingly inconsistent feedback is received (good or bad--the key is inconsistent) consider it valid and take action. There is something of value which will make the team stronger by working on it.

The easy way out is to say, well we know this isn't valid because of (and then begin listing everything that says the feedback is not valid). But in fact, for the person or agency which provided the feedback, the feedback is valid and it is our job as leaders to figure it out and find the nuggets which will make the team (and ourselves as leaders) stronger.

Sometimes it's not pretty!  It is definitely not fun.  But leaders have to ask: Why is this true? What can I do about it? Do I need to do anything about it?

Seek feedback on yourself, your team, your product, your processes and then use it to make a positive difference.

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