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Ask an Expert

Q: Responses on my LPI®360 suggest that I really need to find ways to improve on item #16, asking for feedback on how my actions and behavior affects others. But I’m struggling to figure out how to start those conversations—to find the right words to use. Can you give me a few practical examples of what it looks and sounds like to ask for feedback?  

A: The behavior described in item #16 of the LPI®360 asks Observers to respond to how frequently you Ask for feedback on how your actions affect other people’s performance. The basic concept behind this statement is simply that, as leaders, we need to be asking people how we are doing. We need to be gathering information on an ongoing basis that will help us make sure we are meeting the needs of our constituents. This tells us how to improve. It’s like taking the pulse of your followers so that you know how things are going.

For those who have completed the LPI® and The Leadership Challenge® Workshop, this is a simple way to figure out how you are doing in terms of your improvement. You need those who experience your leadership daily to give you feedback on how you are doing.

And if you’re struggling with this behavior, you are not alone. The “asking for feedback” behavior that is so integral to mastering The Five Practices of Exemplary Leadership® is among the lower scoring behaviors on most LPIs. My best guess, after working with many leaders over many years, is that there are two reasons why “asking for feedback” is at the bottom of the list:
  • The first is about vulnerability. We are just plain scared of what people might say if we ask the question. What if they tell us we need to improve something? What if, indeed! Is it not better to know and be able to make the change, or adjust expectations when changes can’t be made? 

  • The second reason is that we are simply not used to doing this. It is not in our normal range of conversation. It feels different and we avoid things that are new and different. Our bosses never asked for feedback, so why would we ask our folks for feedback? 
Once you decide that you want to gather this feedback, it is not hard to do. I find that once I have a good conversation with leaders about the value of asking for feedback, and they try it out, they are pleasantly surprised by how easy it was and how well it went. You just need to ask people simple questions like:
  1. What could I do better or differently to make your work more effective? 
  2. In what ways does my leadership enhance or detract from what you are trying to accomplish in your work? 
Or simply,
  1. How can I continue to improve my leadership? 
If you are thinking that you don’t have time for these conversations, try asking them:
  1. At the end of a meeting (one-to-one and team meetings) 
  2. During performance reviews with your direct reports (if it is not already a standard question…
    add it) 
  3. To have a cup of coffee so that you can ask them for some feedback in a private, less
    intimidating setting. 
Feel free to warn someone that you are going to ask for this feedback. That will allow them the opportunity to prepare.

But even when you might give them a “heads-up” you should be prepared for blank stares the first time you ask these questions as people may be wondering about ulterior motives. That’s why it is important to make this a standard part of your leadership behavior. It may be the second or third time that you ask when your colleague finally tells all.

Oh, and don’t forget to say, “Thank You!”

Kelly Ann McKnight, a Certified Master of The Leadership Challenge®, is a dynamic presenter, executive coach, and founding principal of Stone Ridge Consulting & Leadership. Praised by clients for creating customized solutions to meet their unique needs, she provides leadership, management and team development through workshops and one-to-one coaching. Kelly Ann can be reached at www.stoneridgeconsulting.ca.


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