Leadership Development and the Foreign Concept of Seeking Feedback

the word "reactive" crossed out and "proactive" above it

It is our experience from working with hundreds of leaders that the opportunity to actually seek feedback is a foreign conceptSo much so that to really stand out today, a leader needs to learn to take charge of his/her own career and become more proactive in seeking feedback that is future oriented and given consistently.

What does a leader do to enhance his/her chances for growing and developing inside an organization? For many, this notion of leadership development means waiting for the annual or mid-year review process to see how the boss is feeling about their performance.

Accentuating the negative is easy to do. As human beings, our brains are wired for finding fault with performance and the feedback delivered tends to focus on what happened in the past. “This report is filled with errors and you need to do a better job proofing” may leave one feeling awful about their work and anxious about turning in future assignments. When this negativity bias is combined with a boss or leader’s desire to avoid actually giving the feedback to a direct report in the first place, we find leaders who lack a true understanding of how their boss feels about their performance at all (80% of the population is conflict or bad news avoidant).

The opportunity for making adjustments or leveraging strengths is harder to do when we don’t know how our boss feels about us or, if all we ever hear is what we did wrong. In the workplace, this approach rarely results in improved performance without negative consequence to relationships and culture. 

According to Dr. Marshall Goldsmith, if the intent of feedback is positive behavior change then “the focus should be on a positive future, not a failed past.” Being proactive by asking for feedback takes Goldsmith’s theory to a new level; seeking Feedforward is the differentiator
 that separates leaders who are extraordinary from those who are just ordinary!  

Why does developing the skill of actually seeking feedforward move you from ordinary to extraordinary?

  • It sets you apart from peers as someone who really wants to hear what you need to do to improve
  • It makes it easy for your boss to give you feedforward (very few leaders look forward to giving feedback on performance)
  • It allows you to set the boundaries for how feedforward is shared with you

There are 2 important steps to collecting feedforward:

  1. Ask directly for what the boss liked about the way you handled the situation (meeting, presentation, sales call, assignment, etc.)
  2. Ask the boss specifically what you can do to improve future presentations (sales calls, meetings, etc.) 

 “When you think of giving feedbacktry giving feedforward…focus on the promise of the future rather than the mistakes of the past”

Dr. Marshall Goldsmith
World’s Most Influential Leadership Thinker

Feedback is a gift when delivered in a feedforward fashion. You can receive such a gift simply by asking for it. Do so and embrace your road to extraordinary leadership. Let us know how it goes.