The higher up you get in an organization, the harder it is to get authentic feedback. My experience suggests that this is a very true statement and that the problem isn’t isolated to senior executives. In fact, it appears when you take your very first leadership role.
To mitigate this challenge, I suggest that you seek out, listen to, and learn from 3 key voices. Truly listening to these voices requires a strong dose of humility, maturity, and openness; however, allowing them to exist creates both short and long-term benefits.
No matter where you are in your career, the sooner you find these three voices, the better. The voices may come from one person, who is a trusted and capable advisor, or from multiple sources. Either way – find, listen, and learn:
1. Voice of Truth
Let’s get real. Everyone messes up; everyone makes at least an occasional poor decision; and everyone could benefit from a Voice of Truth. Unfortunately, these voices are rare. Although some voices might seem to be speaking the truth, many are simply acting the part or working from their own agendas. They don’t have your best interest at heart. You need someone who cares enough about you to speak the truth and is mature enough to do it.
- Who speaks truth to you?
- How do you react when truth is spoken? Do you get defensive? Are you open to this voice?
- Do you create an environment where people feel comfortable to be the Voice of Truth in your life?
2. Voice of Encouragement
When bad times come – and they will come – or when things seem to be spiraling out of control, leaders need a voice of encouragement. This voice doesn’t ignore the gravity of the situation, nor does the voice sugarcoat things. The voice simply helps to put things into perspective and encourages you to get up, brush yourself off, and move forward.
- Who encourages you?
- Is the encouragement authentic and grounded in reality or is it false and unrealistic?
- Do you create an environment where people feel comfortable to be a Voice of Encouragement in your life
3. Voice of Challenge
Many organizations are full of ‘yes’ men and women. No matter what the leader says, the people around the table nod their heads in agreement. They then walk out of the room and share with each other why something won’t work or why the leader’s decision was a bad one. These ‘meetings after the meeting’ are extremely damaging and all too common. If a challenge exists, and they often do, you need to create an environment where you hear it. This doesn’t mean opening yourself up to abuse from an overbearing cynic – do that too much and you will suffer the consequences. It does mean recognizing that everyone always agrees, then you have the wrong people in the room.
- Who challenges you?
- Is there a mature voice in your life that provides constructive feedback for the sole purpose of making you and the organization better?
- How do you create an environment that allows the Voice of Challenge in your life?
Patrick Leddin, PhD is a speaker, global leadership consultant, and The Wall Street Journal bestselling author of The Five-Week Leadership Challenge. Patrick is an Associate Professor at Vanderbilt University with a thriving leadership blog and podcast, and 25-years of leadership experience. He offers an unparalleled mix of academic rigor and real-world experience.