Canadian Thanksgiving Day was earlier this month. That holiday Monday was cool with bright sunshine and blue skies. After our traditional Oktoberfest Family Day lunch (Kitchener-Waterloo celebrates their German heritage with the largest Oktoberfest outside of Munich) our family decided to visit a corn maze. It consisted of a series of trails and pathways cut through a large cornfield. The corn was 7 – 8 feet high. Once in the maze, there was no way to see over the corn to the outside. It was a long and complex maze with many dead-ends and circular loops.
Before we entered the maze, we looked at a large map of it (cleverly spelling out “Canada” and displaying maple leaves) showing every pathway and dead-end and the circling route that would bring us back out. Our son, Chris, and I felt pretty smug as we promptly pulled out our Blackberries and took a photo of the maze map. We were clearly going to find our way through the cornfield with this navigational aid.
Once we were deep into the maze and hopelessly confused, we pulled out our map photos to figure out what route to take. I’ve used Google Maps on my Blackberry for many years to navigate through some of the world’s largest and confusing cities. A few months ago it was very helpful on the back roads of Colorado and Wyoming when I was facilitating a retreat at a very remote “dude ranch.”
But the maze photo map proved to be useless now. It was missing that familiar blinking blue dot showing “you are here.” We had no idea where we were in the maze. It’s very tough to get from here to there when you don’t know where here is! So we sheepishly put our maps away and stumbled blindly through the maze with the rest of our family.
Feedback is essential to leadership development. And when we’re leading others we need to know how they perceive our behaviors. What do they think is working and what’s not so effective? What do they see as strengths we can build on to boost our leadership effectiveness? And are we doing anything that’s veering off track and possibly even a fatal flaw?
Joe Folkman has developed decades of deep experience and expertise in helping leaders gather feedback and figure out how to use it as rocket fuel boosting their performance. Yet many leaders stumble blindly through the maze of personal, team, and organizational interactions. The leader may have some idea of where he or she wants to go, but are missing that “flashing blue dot” triangulated by a group of satellites showing the leader “you are here.” Too often, feedback fear prevents us from having our leadership position triangulated by our manager, peers, direct reports, and others we may be trying to lead or influence. We shut off our GPS units and head into dead-ends and circling career loops.
Joe very rightly points out that “the only thing worse than hearing negative feedback is what happens if you don’t hear it.” Click on “9 Ways To Get Over Your Feedback Fears” for his brief and practical advice published in Fast Company. Joe’s also written an excellent white paper on “Turning Feedback into Change“.