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3 Questions for a Leader

Here is a simple test of your leadership skills.  I suggest you not only rate yourself, but ask 3-5 people who have the strength to be candid how they would rate you.  Please do not request feedback from people who tell you what you want to hear or lack the guts to tell you the truth.

There are many ways to assess your leadership skills.  These just happen to be three strengths or weaknesses that I find recurring often with leaders whom I meet.

Gauge your leadership skills in three areas.

#1 - Do you ask for advice on how you can improve?

Most leaders are so busy they never check-in to confirm they are at their best.  They assume they are doing the "right things" and focused on what is "most important," yet rarely is this 100% true.

In reality, everyone is making mistakes.

According to Dr. Henry Cloud in his book, Never Go Back, highly successful people realize their mistakes and develop habits and systems to avoid them, whereas average performers might acknowledge mistakes but continue to make them.

Therefore you have a choice:  Continue to make mistakes, and overlook your bad habits because you are so busy, or ask people whom you trust for advice and discipline yourself to develop new, more powerful habits that overcome your bad habits.

Ask yourself these follow-up questions:

  • When did you most recently ask someone for candid feedback?
  • How many times have you asked for feedback over the past month?
  • How often do people give you unsolicited feedback?

#2 - Do you accept feedback or reject it?

Whether you get sincere feedback depends on how you respond to it.  People whom you berate or debate will avoid being candid with you.  And why should they? Your behaviors communicate you do not care about their opinions anyway.

Feedback is also referred to as "constructive criticism."  Isn't that an oxymoron?  (Air exhaled by a moron...)  I suggest you avoid that term because it is kind of passive-aggressive.  Feedback should be a balance of sincere, positive comments and insights focused on improvement.  Being open to both positive feedback to build your strengths and negative feedback to address weaknesses is a very important soft skill.

Unfortunately many people lack the ability to receive feedback in a healthy way.  As others start to give feedback they immediately shift to fight or flight mode.  The fighters often aim listen only to debate or deny.  The flighty folks might listen and then walk away muttering to themselves about how wrong the other person was.

Unfortunately, most people naturally believe they are a victim, villain, or hero, or a combination of two of these personas.  Often the natural response of a:

  • "Victim" is to whimper away or debate the feedback as an attack.
  • "Villain" is to defend and not even consider the feedback.  They may even twist the other person's thoughts into an opportunity to attack them.
  • "Hero" may be to fully consider the feedback and act upon it because they have positive self-esteem and want to build on their strengths;  or they might have such a huge ego that any un-positive feedback is simply disregarded.

Each persona is different. Ask yourself these questions to determine which persona you are:

  • When you get feedback, how do you fully consider it?
  • What questions do you ask?  Are they to explore the comments further, or identify flaws in the other person's conclusions?
  • Do you document the feedback and consider it further?
  • Do you thank the person sincerely for their opinion (hero), or debate to help them understand what you believe are misperceptions (fight - villain/victim), or end the conversation to leave as quickly as possible (flight - villain/victim)?

#3 - How do you follow-up on their advice?

Leadership is all about integrity, communication, and follow-up.Great leaders translate feedback into better personal habits, next generation solutions, and win-win outcomes.

Simply listening is not enough.  It does not matter how sincerely you listen.  If you do not act upon the feedback then your "sincerity" is pointless.

You win today by how you adapt your schedule to focus on what is truly most important while retaining your character.  Feedback plays a critical part in your success.  Do not underestimate it.

However, let's be candid, not all feedback is correct.Sometimes the other party is wrong, at least partially.  This does not mean you need to debate.  It is actually more beneficial to ask questions to fully understand how they came to their conclusions.

Sincerely exploring and considering their perceptions may lead to improvements. Ask yourself the following questions:

  • What have you changed with a new, powerful habit or system in response to feedback you received (you listed in #1 above)?
  • How have you changed the way you receive feedback, document and evaluate it, and act upon it based on recent feedback?
  • How are you tracking your improved behavior and/or outcomes?
  • Specifically what will you change now to improve your ability to proactively seek and sincerely receive feedback, and act upon it?

Give yourself up to 10 points for each of the 10 questions above to rate yourself as a leader.  100% is the maximum score.  How did you do?

Albert Einstein is credited with saying, "The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again." Are you partially insane? I have been. It takes discipline to be our best.  Receiving, fully considering, acting upon, and measuring the results of feedback is a powerful habit to develop.  It takes time to develop new habits, but the rewards are HUGE.

I encourage you to give it a try.  Stop the craziness.  It adds unnecessary drama to your life.

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