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Want to Grow as a Leader? Ask for Feedback

By Joey Havens

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This blog is the tenth in the series, My Top 10 Blunders and How You Can Avoid Them. 

As I have shared my top blunders over the past few weeks, you may have noticed a common thread which turned everything around for me: FEEDBACK!  I finally realized that the only feedback I received was during my annual performance evaluation. And I came to dread this awful annual experience with the mountain of feedback and all of the surprises!  

The game changer for me was when I realized that this was my problem—I was not owning my career. I never proactively asked for feedback. I couldn’t envision how this could help me as it was so painful under the traditional format. It’s also painful to hear what we can improve on, so I avoided it as long as possible. When I started working with a personal coach, I discovered how important this feedback was to my success and how much faster I would grow if I sought that feedback all the time. My coach helped me look inside and ask hard questions. He helped me begin to own my career, my growth, my vision and, frankly, my bad habits. 

I now realize it also sends a great message to my peers, team and mentors that I value them and their perceptions of me and my performance. Once I got better at thanking them for the feedback, regardless of how painful it might be, the more insights and timely feedback I received. If we are defensive receiving feedback, it makes even our best sources and trusted team members hesitant to speak frequently and with candor. But once I got my feedback coming from my team on a regular basis, my self-awareness became a strength rather than a blind spot.  My growth accelerated and I was empowered to have a tremendous impact for our team. 

My advice: Read “Thanks for the Feedback” by Douglas Stone and Sheila Heen. Then, be diligent about practicing the skills and concepts you learn. We have trained our entire firm on how to receive feedback. Organizations forget that even if you give great feedback, if people do not know how to receive it or process it, it can result in unwanted reactions—negativity, frustration, anxiety all come to mind. Poorly received feedback can render the feedback useless or meaningless. Owning my career includes owning my feedback. Make receiving feedback a strength, view it as both affirmation and constructive. Now go seek regular feedback for constant growth and an amazing career!