Your conversations, the things you say, the communication you have, the words you share, are your most important tool as a leader. The discussions you have with others are probably the most important part of how you help people think differently, act differently, perform at a higher level, and contribute to a stronger culture. There is no more important thing a leader can do than consider, plan for, and practice effective conversations with others that they lead.
One of the things that often trips leaders up is the feedback parts of their communication. In its simplest form, feedback to others is simply an outside opinion of their actions. Outside observations can be incredibly helpful when anyone is looking to improve their results. Think about sports teams watching game film, salespeople listening to customers, 360-degree feedback for leaders, or anyone receiving high quality coaching.
Because feedback is provided from another source, it has the potential to be received differently. It can make us think in new ways because it is not filtered through our own bias about ourselves, our historical view of who we are, or any preconceived beliefs we have about our strengths, weaknesses, or traits. Essentially it comes from outside of “who we think we are” and so it can create new ideas that we are not capable of having ourselves.
But if we deliver feedback or outside opinions that immediately trigger some of a person’s innate self-defense mechanisms connected to their self-worth or self-esteem, we completely lose the intended value of the conversation. It is simply not possible for a person to defend their sense of self and consider your ideas and thoughts about how they work differently at the same time.
One is a very emotional response, and one is a thoughtful cognitive exercise, and we are not good at performing both of those things at the same time. It’s certainly possible that the person will think about the words later and consider them thoughtfully, but we have lost the chance to have that happen in the moment. We might be able to still get there with a longer conversation and some additional work, but we have not set our communication up for success if we cause people to defend themselves against it. And we have then failed to use our greatest tool, the words we share with others, to the best of our ability.
Planning to deliver feedback effectively is a hallmark of an excellent coach and an excellent leader. To support leaders as they do this, we have prepared a free, reusable resource that you can reference anytime. Click below to download this PDF instantly.
Use this tool to think about your feedback and to make sure that you are leading in ways that change thinking for others. Every bit of growth, development, and increased success starts with new thinking, and as leaders we get to create that for others if we plan, prepare, and change our own thinking about how we deliver feedback.