Feedback. We all need it, yet few of us take it serious enough or often enough to make an impact in our ability to lead others. When was the last time you asked someone their opinion, appeared to be attentive (smiling and nodding your head up and down at the appropriate intervals to give the impression of deep thought and consideration in what they are sharing) only to be lost in your own thought and at the end of the conversation realize you haven’t heard a word? I expect probably more recent and often than any of us wish to admit. Why do we continue to choose to fail to embrace the tremendous value of feedback?
I met George on a flight from Charlotte to Baltimore and it became evident that both of us liked to talk and having only a one-hour-and-eight-minute flight we both did a lot of talking. We must have heard something we liked in each other's ranting because George volunteered and came to two different weekend leadership summits to speak about his career successes and personal impressions on leadership. One of the points George made during the 1st summit was that some individuals speak 85% of the time and recommended that since we have two ears and one mouth, one should listen twice as much as they speak. After the presentation I asked George, “Which one of us do you think spoke 85% of the time when we met on the plane?” He smiled and immediately retorted, “Both of us!” I learned a valuable lesson that day, I don’t listen nearly enough and when everyone is in transmit mode no one is in receive. What excellent advice have I been missing all of these years?
How well do you receive feedback, as well as you give it? The best test of your mode (transmit verses receive) is to evaluate/analyze how you react to interfaces at home: your spouse, significant other, parents, children, and the woman delivering the news on the television. The way we act towards those closest to us is a pretty good indicator how we act or react in the workplace environment. Think about it, are you aware of what’s going around you or are you buried in your own mind, oblivious to the outside world? My wife says I don’t hear 90% of the important information and feedback she offers me. I tell her of my issues on the road and ask her opinion. The moment she suggests that perhaps I made the wrong decision, or could have been more supportive, my mind goes into self-protection and I turn her off. After all, no matter how right she is and how patiently she shares my weaknesses, I don’t what to hear about my imperfections. I was seeking her approval of my decision and 100% support in not only of what I want, but how I feel as well. My wife being a wonderful person won’t let me get away with my ego; she helps me through well-meaning feedback all the time. Not that I always change, but I do listen to her well-intended thoughts. Her best one that is repeated often is, “But Eric, that’s not your responsibility, let it go?” Oh, so hard to admit she is right because I want to fix the world every day, and ‘fix it for good’ because, I do have all the answers.
Over a period of four years the members of “The Bottom Three” developed and began sharing their individual and group thoughts on feedback, mechanisms to improve communication and developed several measures and surveys regarding feedback; having delivered the content at several conferences, weekend leadership summits and individually strive to live the vision of open and two-way feedback every day as we lead or are led in our own organizations.