The Gift of Seeing Ourselves as Others Do

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Dear Colleague,

It’s hard to step outside of our own skin and self-evaluate. Sometimes we are too hard on ourselves, and other times we just let ourselves off the hook. The ancient Scottish saying still captures it perfectly – O wad some Power the giftie gie us. To see oursels as ithers see us!

This gift of seeing ourselves as others do is a regular event in the lives of our current political candidates. Daily the polls register and record the effect that each presidential candidate is having on the voters.

But how do the rest of us get real time feedback from those who know us and can provide a true picture of both our strengths and weaknesses? How do we know where we are pushing too hard and what we are blindly ignoring?

One solution is a well-formulated 360-Degree Feedback Report. It asks the right questions of the right people to get at the truth. Most of us, if we are honest, want to know how others perceive us. Still it takes courage and a desire for improvement to go through the 360 process.

In our coaching, we offer five, nationally recognized assessments. They are all substantive and well researched instruments. Yet in the written evaluations from our clients, nothing is consistently rated higher or has more meaningful and targeted feedback than the 360 Report.

The 360 Report is The Man/Woman in the Mirror, with all our perfections and imperfections. It’s what others around us experience. This 360 degree image provides the sharpest picture possible of what derails us and what we can leverage to greater success.

Here are four considerations before you take the plunge.

Consideration #1:
Are you willing to ask for and accept feedback?

The best time to build a network is before you need it. The most advantageous time to advance your business is when there is already some momentum. But the best time to get feedback is in both good and bad times.

In bad times, we need perspective and input for course correction. In good times, we need to be able to ratchet up a few degrees and take advantage of opportunities, a healthy culture, terrific customer relationships, and/or an exceptional team.

The opportunity for feedback is always there. The real question to consider is whether you are in a place to be open, non-defensive, and willing to consider what others see and say.

It takes a strong personal resolve to become a better leader as well as a willingness to take some things apart and put them back together. Sometimes the process of feedback starts with a corporate initiative. However, 360 feedback works the best when there is a sincere willingness on the part of the participant to ask for and accept feedback.

Consideration #2:
Are you willing to make changes once you receive feedback?

The process of asking direct reports, peers, bosses, and often clients to provide input requires time and attention from them. Thank them after you receive the feedback and voice your appreciation. Then share some of the comments and personally commit to making some meaningful changes.

Patrick Lencioni, author and coach, speaks of a CEO coaching client who wanted a 360-degree report and then began to aggressively confront his team after he received their feedback. “So you don’t think I’m strategic enough? You don’t think I make well thought out and timely decisions? You think I play favorites?”

With Patrick at the back of the room observing, everyone appeared intimidated by their boss’ defensive approach to feedback and resistance to change. They replied “Oh no, you are brilliantly strategic. You are a superb decision maker. Wow, who wrote that feedback? What were they thinking? We have never seen you play favorites.

Patrick rolled his slightly rusted and squeaky chair from the corner of the room to the table. He stood up beside his CEO client and said, “Let’s start again. First why, Mr. Client, would you commit to a 360 feedback process if you weren’t going to change anything and then turn around and shoot the messengers? And gang, if you didn’t write the feedback, who did? You were the raters who supplied feedback.”

The willingness to go through the process of obtaining 360 feedback requires that we value others’ opinions, stay non-defensive, and make some stated and visible changes.

Consideration #3:
Are you willing to objectively assess whether your strengths are a good fit for your current role and responsibilities?

Everyone has insecurities about whether they are the right person for the job. It can and usually is lonely being a manager or leader. There isn’t a way to satisfy everyone and still get the right results from the business. Sometimes the market conditions change dramatically and new leadership and new teams are required.

In our coaching we look for general themes that support a good “match” of strengths to our coaching client’s current position, as identified in their 360 report. This means that our coaches must understand what is required of their coaching client in terms of performance and results. Everyone has development areas, blind spots, and weaknesses. There is rarely a perfect fit. But there are certain 360 indicators that need to be in the “good to great” column to ensure a person’s success in their current role.

A leader or manager must have a drive to actively increase knowledge of the business and provide visible leadership and clear direction. He or she must have the ability to attract great talent and build the team. In order to be effective, a leader must have “good to great” scores in the categories of trustworthiness, adaptation to change, professionalism, and getting things done in a timely fashion.

Consideration #4:
Are you willing to find an accountability partner and keep the process going?

In any change program, an accountability partner is the key to making the change and growth sustainable. Whether with diet, exercise, parenting, overcoming addictions, or professional growth, built-in accountability provides the long-term results. Rarely do any of us have enough insight and stamina by ourselves to make behavioral changes permanent.

Choose someone who has your best interests in mind, is knowledgeable, and can provide constructive feedback. Select someone who can support and coach you for a minimum of six months.

Part of the reason that it is so difficult to keep the momentum is that we become discouraged when we are making changes and no one notices. That’s because perceptions are difficult to change. A lot of new behavior has to be demonstrated consistently over some period of time before anyone believes that it is more than a passing phase or quick band-aid.

Keily, Goldsmith, and Company conducted a study measuring the impact of asking for feedback and then following up on perceived leadership effectiveness. The study was conducted with thousands of leaders who received feedback from direct reports via a 360 Report.

The results were clear.

    • Leaders who were seen as not responding to feedback and not following up with their direct reports were viewed as unchanged or only slightly more effective than they were 18 months earlier.
    • Leaders who were seen as doing at least some follow-up were seen as noticeably more effective as they were 18 months earlier.
    • Leaders who were viewed as doing frequent and consistent follow-up were rated significantly more effective than they were 18 months earlier

Feedback, change, and improvement are never a single event. They are all part of an ongoing process that needs continual feeding and attention from us and people who care about our success. The remarkable results from high quality feedback create stronger leaders who go on to create better businesses and better communities.

Help More. Judge Less.

Susan sig