Feedback, it seems, is an F-word to many people. It doesn’t need to be. With the right frame of mind and guidance it can be key in developing self-awareness, improving results and growing your career if you act on what you learn.
An apt definition of feedback is that it is information about the gap between the actual level and reference level of performance. The information is used to alter the gap in some way. The feedback loop is complete when action is taken to close the gap.
Earlier in my career, I experienced first-hand the upside of acting on feedback. I had the opportunity to partner with an executive coach as part of my development. During a six-month engagement, I took assessments, had a 360-review and benefited from stakeholder feedback that my coach solicited on my leadership style, communication effectiveness and other factors relevant to the process.
The feedback revealed gaps I needed to alter to get to the reference level identified by my manager and myself at the onset of the coaching engagement. In fact, my identity (how I viewed myself and perceived my performance) did not match my reputation (how others perceived me and viewed my performance). This was a jolt! It helped me better understand how others viewed me and it humbled me. The feedback process helped foster self-awareness and motivated me to improve.
In a recent article titled “Where Potential Meets Opportunity, “Gary Burnison, Korn Ferry CEO, sums it up nicely: “Humility begets self-awareness, and self-awareness begets growth.” With my coach’s help, I acted on keeping or amplifying my strengths and improving in my gap areas. It was a humbling journey, but well worth it for the new behaviors I adopted along the way — behaviors that helped me grow personally and in my career.
Thanking my stakeholders for feedback and presenting a high-level summary on what I learned about my strengths and gap areas required vulnerability on my part that I had not previously allowed. My summary included a statement of my goals and a request for their continued feedback and support along the way. They readily signed on and committed to provide ongoing feedback.
What surprised me at the time was that showing vulnerability made me seem far more approachable to my stakeholders. It didn’t make me weaker in their eyes, but rather more open to growth and collaboration. I benefited from the periodic feedback they provided throughout the coaching process, whether that was about progress I was making or further development they hoped to see. Progress, indeed, is not linear: Sometimes I would take two steps forward and one step back.
However, it was the process of acting on my coaching goals that completed the feedback loop with my stakeholders, allowing them and others to see me becoming a more effective leader. This led to a promotion within a year and more career development as I progressed.
Five years ago, I started my own executive coaching business. Today I help executives, organizations, and leadership teams as an ICF Professional Certified Coach. I use assessments, 360s, stakeholder interviews, and other tools and processes to help people and teams “alter gaps” and keep or amplify strengths while acting in areas that improve their outcomes, identities and reputations.
Coaching works. Organizations that use coaching for executives are starting to employ it for leadership teams as well. Leaders who engage in coaching want results. Not only do they want to improve individually as leaders, but they also desire better alignment and outcomes for their organizations and see coaching as a critical process to achieve those goals. Coaching, certainly, is a differentiator in many top organizations, leading to improved retention, inclusion and engagement.
How can coaching help you or your organization use feedback to alter the gap between actual performance and the reference level you hope to obtain?
Lance Hazzard, PCC, CPCC, is a certified Intelligent Leadership Executive Coach helping people and organizations achieve success. Lance and Eric T. Hicks, Ph.D., co-authored Accelerating Leadership, published in June 2019. Lance is Executive Coach and President at Oppnå® Executive & Achievement Coaching. More information on the book, Lance and Oppnå® Coaching can be found at the links below: