How well do you know yourself?

Knowing others is intelligence; knowing yourself is true wisdom. – Tao Te Ching

How do you truly know yourself and your impact on those you lead?  In her last blog, Dee Anne talked about using various assessments to increase your self-awareness. I’ve found that seeking feedback from colleagues is also a powerful tool to increasing your leadership effectiveness and can provide a helpful complement to information you learn from assessments.

I often ask direct reports: “What can I do to support your success?”  or colleagues, “What can I do to make sure our working relationship goes smoothly?” Or bosses, “How did that (meeting, presentation, fill in the blank)  go and how can I improve?”

What I’ve learned as a result has been both helpful and humbling. Several years ago, I took an online 360 survey developed by Stephen M.R. Covey on how adept I am at building trust with others. You can find it at: http://whotrustsyou.com/

After asking several colleagues to take the survey and reviewing my results, I went to each colleague and thanked them for their feedback. I also asked for further feedback by saying, “I appreciate our working relationship and want to know how I can increase your trust and confidence in me.”  One brave colleague shared that he appreciated working with me, but that he had heard that I had spoken negatively about his team’s performance in a meeting. It had hurt him. He said that he expected that I would discuss something like that with him before speaking with others. Ouch!  That was hard to hear.  It took me a few moments to breathe, gather my thoughts, and apologize. It also was helpful feedback that made me reflect and examine how I might be eroding trust with others. You can be sure that I worked hard to regain his trust.

When seeking feedback, I’ve learned to invite candid responses, listen attentively, do everything I can to reduce my natural defenses, and be open to seeing from another perspective. It’s not easy, and I think I’m still learning.

Seeking feedback can make you feel vulnerable and expose weaknesses you weren’t aware of; it can also affirm strengths that you have and give you signals about what you are doing that is working well.

What advice do you have for others when seeking feedback?

Anita Rios

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2 responses to “How well do you know yourself?

  1. Anita, great post. Seeking feedback requires courage, not only from you but also from the person giving feedback. Not everyone gives feedback freely. It also helps if leaders in an organization build a feedback culture. We strived for it during my time at Best Buy and it helped immensely. Giving feedback in the moment and in the spirit of lifting us to new levels of performance was exciting. Thanks!

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  2. Thanks Don! You are right: giving feedback takes courage. Building skill in giving feedback and encouraging a work culture that values feedback can help bolster that courage. Oftentimes, we can stop ourselves from giving candid feedback because we worry about how it will be received. Will the recipient be open to the feedback? Or will they respond in a defensive way? I’d be interested to hear how folks have dealt with that challenge.

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