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Self Deception

What do people really think of you? Do you even care? Do you care too much?
 
Many of the managers and executives I coach and train start off by being surprised and maybe even slightly insulted to think that they need to improve their leadership skills. After all, they wouldn’t have been promoted if they weren’t competent… or would they?
 
It kind of reminds me of the 1992 movie A Few Good Men when Jack Nicholson, playing the role of Colonel Jessep, defiantly states, “You can’t handle the truth!”
 
The term 360 degree feedback has become much maligned because most of the people who are subjected to this feedback are not open to receiving it in the first place. 360 feedback refers to getting feedback from your boss, your peers and your direct reports, a full circle of feedback.

Self-Deception
 
Let’s examine two patterns of thinking that get in the way of an executive or manager accepting and acting upon feedback from peers and direct reports:

  1. The individual giving me feedback isn’t credible or qualified to evaluate me. (What do they know!) 
  2. I’ve achieved success by being the way I am so why would I want to change?

Let’s tackle each of these.
 
First, any person who interacts with you is qualified and capable of giving you feedback about your people skills. The feedback might be related to how clearly you communicate, how responsive you are, whether you are approachable or not and if they feel encouraged and supported by you. If they work with you more closely they can also speak to your technical skills related to completing assignments both accurately and in a timely fashion.
 
And that brings us to the second point. High achievers can hit a plateau where the same skills and approaches they used to achieve their current level of success often work against them in getting to a higher level of responsibility.
 
The most common term for this is “The Peter Principle” where individuals are destined to be promoted to their level of incompetence. Once you reach that level, you are no longer promotable and in fact, your days may be numbered.
 
While the incompetence could be technical, most likely it has to do with your people skills. At higher levels in an organization your success has less to do with your own output and more to do with mobilizing a team to achieve the required results.

Unaware of Strengths
 
In addition to being unaware of our weaknesses, we can also be unaware of our strengths. Without an appreciation of what we do well, we might inadvertantly stop and lose the benefit of that strength. Feedback can reinforce what we are doing well.
 
Confronting Reality
 
When you get to a place where you recognize that no matter how successful you have been, there is always room for improvement, you can begin to make adjustments. In every single coaching situation I have encountered there are only 3 or 4 leadership behaviors that the individual needs to change in order to unlock greater success. The challenge is to discover what those behaviours are and get help to correct them.
 
Reflection Questions
 
Do you actively solicit feedback from the people around you as to how effectice a leader you are? If not can you become vulnerable enough to ask for that feedback and use it to grow as an individual?

Action Items

  • Ask for specific feedback from the people you work with and those who work for you if you are in a leadership position.
  • While you can use more sophisticated instruments to measure leadership style and management capability, you can start with these four simple questions:
  • What do you think I do really well and would like me to continue doing?
  • What do I not do as much as I should and you would like to see me do more of?
  • What do I do that you think it best that I stop doing?
  • What do I not do now that you think I should start doing?
  • When you get the feedback, even if you find it difficult to swallow, be thankful because you are on your way to greater success.
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