We all like an ‘at-a-boy or ‘at-a-girl. I can distinctly remember a handful of times when our organization’s president called me out by name in front of my peers for an above-and-beyond type effort. That felt great.

But I can also remember taking a tough phone call from a vice president and getting knocked back down to size due to my poor attitude about some organizational changes.

Both of these were forms of feedback, and both have stuck with me over the years.

In hindsight, however, the high-five feedback was pretty common at that organization. It was an acknowledgement of outcome and effort, and somewhat impersonal. Lots of people got a shout-out for lots of things. Everyone was periodically awesome.

The verbal dressing down on the other hand? That was highly personal. It revealed to me some things that I did not know about our organizational culture, and it helped me see some things about myself that I was blind to up to that point.

I can say with certainty that while much less pleasant, the difficult phone call was much more instructive. It dealt with my character more than my performance, and it invited me to make some significant adjustments.

In our second session of LEAD 24/7, we had the opportunity to seek out, reflect on, and apply feedback. We did this by inviting people within our sphere of influence—workplace leaders, peers, friends, and family—to speak into different aspects of our leadership. The results were a mix of “keep doing that!” observations of what I’m doing well and “this is a blind spot” observations of where I might need to make some adjustments.

Many of us are comfortable giving and receiving the first form of feedback, but we’re much less comfortable with the second. That’s why it’s so amazing when we intentionally invite both kinds of feedback from people we respect and admire.

When we give people the opportunity to offer some difficult observations and then seek to integrate their feedback—real growth is possible.

There were both light and shadow threads that ran through my feedback, and the entire process left me feeling encouraged, humbled, and inspired to really look at these things in the context of my monthly coaching sessions.

This model of inviting feedback, as opposed to waiting for it in an annual review or for that difficult phone call, and then working to integrate it with a trusted coach or advisor is one that I want to carry forward.

Invite feedback, adjust, repeat…grow.

Lead on,

Image by nan palmero. Used under CC by 2.0 license.