Donna's blog on coaching, leadership, and life

Archive for April, 2010

Leaders are judged—remember it’s seldom personal.

Regardless of how strong a leader you may be, how successful you are in your role, or how highly you may be regarded, the higher up you move in an organization, the more you will undoubtedly be judged by others. Whether you’re being judged positively or negatively, through casual comment or organized assessments, here are a few things to consider as you receive direct or indirect feedback about you and/or your organization:

Listen intently. Ask questions to help clarify the perceptions. Hold your response until you’ve had time to consider what you’re hearing.

Look for common themes. Common themes in feedback offer a great foundation for what you may want to learn more about, keep doing, or pay more attention to. At the very least—true or false—common themes reflect current perceptions. And perceptions can have a significant impact on the overall health of your organization.

Clarify what may have been misinterpreted. If you feel that you’ve clearly communicated a change or a standard, yet through feedback, you learn that others are not receiving the information as you had hoped, you may want to consider communicating again with added clarity. If you’re attempting to implement a significant change, consider communicating the message more than once, through multiple channels or approaches. See my prior blog entry: Six Times Six Different Ways

Take feedback seriously, yet avoid taking it personally. If feedback has a negative tone, it’s natural to feel defensive. However, you don’t want to be reactive. Work through it off-line, so that you can approach the feedback with a more objective, bigger picture perspective.

Thank those that are offering the feedback and let them know they’ve been heard. If you’ve settled on any strategies in response to the feedback, and you find it appropriate, share your plans.

Remember that candid feedback is a gift, and your ability to listen, consider, and respond—without taking it personally—will increase its value and impact on business.

Authenticity—the real deal.

Working with individuals and teams over the years, I’ve learned that one of the most signficant challenges people face is the ability to be truthful at work. This may sound inaccurate at first glance. However, if individuals experience a conflict or disappointment with one another, or with how they’re being managed, they often don’t feel free, or don’t have the courage, to voice their true opinions. And although they may have no problem sharing their concerns with others—who are not involved—they seldom approach the person they’re upset with, directly. And before long, inaccurate assumptions increase and barriers are built.

Whether we’re afraid to hurt someone we care about, or avoiding the wrath of someone we find difficult, fear of repercussions seems to be the primary obstacle in the way of truthful communications. Supervisors hesitate to “cross the line” as it relates to offering recommendations or opinions to their managers. Co-workers fear a strained relationship, or worse, a damaged one. Interestingly, this fear of repercussions spans across all employee levels, from support staff to executive management.

I’ve talked and blogged about the importance of positive, business-centered motives when communicating at work. Today, I offer one additional tidbit. Be authentic.

As long as you are respectful and making a genuine effort to maintain the esteem of the person you’re being honest with, simply being yourself and telling it like it is—from your perspective—can be very effective.