Want to be a better leader?
The most common way of understanding leadership is to study successful leaders. The least common way is to study followers. You should be doing both.
I can’t tell you how many times leaders I’ve worked with said to me that the most valuable and powerful learning they had regarding their own leadership skills came from the people they led, together with insights from their peers and their own leader (supervisor). It’s called 360 degree feedback.
Problem is, 360 feedback is often an expensive process. But – it doesn’t have to be.
I recently worked with the senior leadership team of a non-profit organization, as part of a team of coaches working with about a dozen senior executives. As coaches, we wanted to “hit the ground running” with our individual clients, AND have real and compelling data to legitimatize the process. Rather than using a commercial 360 instrument (of which there are many valuable, valid products to choose from), we used Survey Monkey and had them get about ten people (subordinates, peers and boss) to provide anonymous, narrative responses to just three questions:
- What does this leader do well?
- What does this leader not do so well?
- What else would you like this leader to know about his/her leadership practice?
The respondents provided their answers on the internet, which were then sent to us. No one knew who said what because they weren’t asked for ANY demographic data.
The results? Each executive was given three to four pages of comments from the people who know them best – and in particular, those who report to them (their followers). With each of the people I subsequently coached, they saw some things that they already knew and believed to be true, and they had some eye-opening feedback about things that they either didn’t know, or didn’t realize was as important to the people around them.
We then began our coaching with real data and chose things to work on that would make an actual difference in their leadership practice.
Don’t limit your study of leadership to successful leaders. Learn to listen to followers too – in particular, YOUR followers, to take your skills to the next level.