Clearing the way to embrace feedback
If you are like most people, you tense up when you hear the words, “I have some feedback for you.” But here’s a scary thought: What if you went on your merry way without any feedback… ever? All faults going unchecked, all idiosyncrasies growing into nuisances—or even deep flaws?
Early data from Korn/Ferry's new online assessment, ProSpective, has revealed that 80 percent of leaders have at least one blind spot or one hidden strength. That’s one indication that most of us would benefit from seeking out additional feedback. At work, self-awareness is not a nice-to-have, it’s the basis for leadership success.
Parker J. Palmer, author of Let Your Life Speak: Listening for the Voice of Vocation, and founder and senior partner of the Center for Courage & Renewal, sees self-awareness and inner exploration as a leadership imperative. In Palmer’s mind, the consequences of an unexamined life include arrogance, envy, suspicion, greed and fear—all of which have the potential to harm other people. On the other hand, courageous self-reflection and self-criticism builds trust with other people, something Palmer links to better outcomes for schools and businesses.
To practice going deeper and building self-awareness, Palmer sometimes uses what he calls a Clearness Committee—a group of trusted mentors. Based in the Quaker tradition, a Clearness Committee’s purpose is to help a person reflect on how they are feeling, what they are thinking, and reveal new insights that shed light on a particular problem. One outcome of the process is honesty—getting honest with yourself and others about mistakes, weaknesses, and personal changes that need to be made. For Palmer, this is one way he clears the clutter and distractions and finds the self-awareness required for sound decisions, sound relationships, and sound leadership.
When we don’t have access to a Clearness Committee but we need clarity and feedback, we get resourceful. We hire a coach or a therapist, we browse lists of books, we look for examples in the media. Think about the increased popularity of personal coaches, self-help books, and shows like “The Apprentice.”
What if instead you found a handful of people you trusted and sought them out when you need clarity and feedback? What’s the worst that could happen? You may learn something about yourself.