Leadership and Responding to Feedback
Leadership and feedback kind of go together. Soliciting feedback is an essential component of being able to lead effectively, as much as giving feedback (perhaps even more). When it comes to asking for feedback, the information you receive tells you how you’re being experienced, how your decisions are landing, and what impact you’re having.
That being said, feedback can also be dangerous. Why? Because you probably don’t know what to do with it once you’ve got it. Let me explain.
Often, once you have feedback, it can be tempting to implement changes immediately based on said feedback. Somebody says you’re too rigid in your expectations? You relax your standards. Feedback suggests that your staff dislike weekly meetings? You move to a once-a-month staff meeting. A recent staff survey tells you that you’re not accessible enough? You let your team know that they can expect a 2-hour response time to any message they leave. And these changes are effective immediately, of course.
Here’s the problem. Although you’ve heard the feedback, you haven’t taken the time to align that feedback with some critical questions.
What’s your intention?
What’s your desired impact?
How do you want to be experienced?
Without answering these questions before taking action, you cannot use feedback effectively. Any changes you make will be premature to say the least, and possibly detrimental to your overall plans. Although feedback is important, feedback that is implemented without consideration to the bigger picture can be destructive.
Here’s another way to look at it. Feedback is nothing more or less than an opinion, or set of opinions. If you don’t know what your desired impact is, if you don’t know what you’re about, and you implement changes based on nothing but opinion, you run the risk of heading down a path that will take you away from your vision, rather than towards it.
As a leader, your job is to gauge how your decisions are reflecting your vision. Feedback can help you to do so, for sure. It is also true, however, that running with feedback without considering who you are and what matters in the big picture first, will undermine your success every time.
Bottom-line: before you implement changes based on feedback received, make sure that said changes are aligned with your bigger vision. Feedback is nothing more or less than the opinions of others. Creating plans based solely on those opinions is a recipe for disaster. Ask yourself, how does this feedback align with my vision? Then -- and only then -- if necessary and appropriate, implement the changes that fit.