I once had a manager who talked behind my back. Although I was a good (or even better than good) employee, she wasn’t willing to give me feedback directly. Even when I asked for it! I knew (and told her I knew) that she was talking to others about her dissatisfaction with something I did. So I set up a meeting with her. Boy, did she ever avoid that “feedback” conversation, and I came away from the meeting with a decision to leave my job if I couldn’t have a conversation with her about what she was telling others.
The role I was in was ambiguous, with multiple “dotted line” relationships that I had to manage. And I really felt I needed her feedback because ultimately, she had my fate in her hands. She pretty much ignored or avoided me most of the time, and despite my efforts, feedback didn’t come from her directly. I eventually left the position I was in, because being in a job with a manager who wouldn’t give feedback even when asked wasn’t a place I cared to dwell in any longer.
Most leaders need feedback, and many get it in an anonymous way; through a coaching relationship where the coach may interview colleagues, as part of their company’s performance review process, or with the assistance of a 360 degree electronic instrument. I often dream of the day when leaders don’t need this kind of anonymous feedback.
When the day comes that you won’t need a 360, you will have:
Entered the world of the people around you. You do this by listening deeply, beyond the words, asking questions to help you understand their point of view. You know a little about then as a person, and they know about you too. You’ve developed a rapport with each other as equals; even with those that you are tentative with.
Developed trust though the commitments and follow through on them that you make and by appropriately delegating to others. It goes without saying that you have to follow through in order for others to trust you. But who knew that delegation would make others feel trusted and that trust would be returned to you?
Asked for feedback on a fairly regular basis. Although this also builds trust, it simultaneously builds relationships by letting others know that you are earnest in wanting to be the best leader you can be. When that feedback is given, you must listen to it (not make excuses about it or blame others for it), and then act on it when possible.
Given feedback successfully to others in a way that is respectful and non-judgmental. This creates trust in relationships, through a feedback dialog that helps the receiver of the feedback understand what they need to do to be successful through that thoughtful conversation. When this trust is built, others will be more willing to give you feedback.
Maybe you’ve had a 360, and that’s a good thing. Wouldn’t it be even better if you developed the kind of relationships where you didn’t actually need one?