Three Things that Happen in a Feedback Void

In my career I’ve had to provide tough feedback to many leaders. Here’s an example that comes to mind: I had to let a CEO know that his employees feel that he doesn’t listen, accept their feedback, nor does he act on the information they share with him. The CEO’s response could be summarized as follows:

The reason that people say this is because I have employees who have either checked out (ready to retire or leave the organization) or who are not doing their job. And, to complicate matters even more, I have Board members who are trying to micro-manage me in leading the organization. If everyone would keep their nose out of what I am trying to do to successfully lead this organization, everything would be just fine.”

This example has both positive and negative aspects.

On the positive side: the direct reports and Board members cared enough about this leader to provide feedback and resources that will help him become an even better leader.

On the negative side: this is a CEO who doesn’t appreciate feedback, nor does he feel that he has an opportunity to improve.

Here’s the challenge: even though we have employees who are willing to give feedback and Board members who are willing to both allocate the necessary resources to hire an Executive Coach and provide helpful feedback, most likely, moving forward and providing this CEO with feedback is going to be a huge waste of everyone’s time and money. When leaders reject feedback from the very people who are trying to help them, they directly and indirectly tell everyone that they lack confidence in themselves, and that they have no motivation to improve.

So, what happens when you don’t accept feedback?

  1. You don’t know the truth. Almost always, leaders who are not good at accepting feedback think they know the truth, but this is seldom the reality. When people know that you don’t welcome feedback, they stop giving you feedback and they start telling others about your shortcomings rather than telling you directly. In this case, people will only tell you what they think you want to hear.
  2. You become increasingly incompetent. When you don’t take feedback and improve as a leader, you stay stagnant and comfortable. Staying stagnant would not be a problem if the whole world was not moving forward at a rapid pace around you. Being comfortable is not the place to be for managers who aspire to become great leaders.
  3. You surround yourself with people who are comfortable with being led by an incompetent leader. Competent and confident people like to surround themselves with leaders who are also confident and competent. Competent and confident leaders are adept at taking feedback and act on the feedback to become an even stronger leader. Employees who are comfortable working for a leader who cannot take feedback usually lack confidence and competence and feel that this is the best job and leader that they could find. In other words, they need to make the leader happy by putting up with the situation and kissing the leader’s ass.

So, if you want people to tell you the truth, listen up. Here are 7 tips that will not only put you on the right runway, they will provide you with the tools to take off on the path to success.

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