Each month I write an e-newsletter that focuses on observations in business and life that could be beneficial for readers. The December issue is always a reflection on the lessons I learned during the year. Here is the 5th most important insight I discovered in 2010:
Stand On It – One of my intentions this year was to confidently treach out to anyone who could possibly enhance our success – to play big. This focus attracted conversations with many executives… and each was gracious to provide guidance and referrals. On the personal side, I submitted an application to ‘Be the Boss’ on Sirius/XM’s E Street Radio. They said yes, and I had the opportunity to play my favorite Bruce Springsteen tracks and share stories on the air. Never be shy to raise your hand; it’s the best way to start working on a dream.
Part of my coaching work with executives consists of conducting feedback interviews with 10-12 of their supervisors, peers and direct reports. This provides insight into the perceptions of those who know the person being coached in a working relationship. Typically, three or four underlying behaviors arise that clients seek to improve during our coaching sessions.
While it’s better to have a detached third-person – like a coach – explore areas around what are Susie’s biggest strengths, where are ways Billy can be more successful and describe John’s communication style, you can do this on your own.
Choose a few folks who you interact with on a regular basis and ask them to sit down and share how they see you… giving them permission upfront to be candid. Listen closely to what they’re saying, taking a few ‘headline’ notes without being absorbed in capturing every word. Be sure not to react to anything you hear. This isn’t an exercise in right or wrong, good or bad; it’s exploratory research and a chance to learn.
These conversations should last less than 15 minutes. End each one by asking is there anything else I should know that would help me be a better leader? Then simply say thank you. There’s no need to accept, reject or negotiate any of their viewpoints. After you talk to everyone review your notes and look for patterns where you could do better. Chances are if there’s something you need to change more than one person mentioned it. Choose two or three that are important to you, and put together a self-improvement plan.
Circle back to tell each person how much you appreciate his or her helping you, and share the first things you’re going to address. This lets them know it wasn’t just a conversation that ended without action. Finally, select one person to serve as your accountability partner to ensure you stay focused on achieving change, and schedule brief ‘check in’ updates every few weeks for several months. Soon you’ll start seeing a better you.