Feedback Conundrums, Ironies, and ContradictionsA few weeks ago I reflected on the last three years of partnering with Zenger Folkman (“Re-Fired with Building Strengths“) and their powerful strengths-based leadership development methodology found in The Extraordinary Leader. 360 feedback is critical to building strengths or addressing fatal flaws (as long as it avoids the “Nine Problems with 360 Multi-Rater Assessments“).

Over the past two years — and especially in the past six months — our revised, updated, and increased use of The Extraordinary Coach  is proving to be equally powerful. It’s also been personally rewarding to watch the resulting growth of participants I’ve been training or coaching. This coaching development system includes evidence-based approaches for giving and receiving feedback to build strengths or address critical issues.

And recently I’ve stepped up the number and depth of one-on-one executive coaching. These sessions are showing me a wide variety of effective and ineffective responses to leaders getting feedback and coaching on their leadership behaviors.

In their article, Feedback: The Leadership Conundrum for Talent Quarterly, Jack Zenger and Joe Folkman summarize their insightful research on how feedback can supercharge a leader’s career and is at the heart of the coaching he or she provides to others. Here are the headlines of their key findings:

  1. Positive feedback for some is negative, and negative feedback for many is positive.
  2. People want to receive feedback, but they don’t want to give it.
  3. Men are less inclined than women to give corrective feedback.
  4. One size does not fit all when it comes to feedback.
  5. Age does not change the willingness to give corrective feedback, but does increase receptivity to receiving corrective feedback.
  6. Giving and receiving feedback does not improve with seniority.
  7. Feedback is an unnatural act, both on the giving and receiving end.
  8. Nearly all the development focus is on the giver of feedback while the receiver is in complete control of the success of the outcome.
  9. Feedback should ideally flow upward as well as downward.
  10. Receivers of feedback are fearful, despite the giver’s intention to be helpful.
  11. Like powerful medicines, feedback has the potential to do enormous good, and it can also do harm when misused or done poorly.

These findings sure resonate with my experiences over the past few years. Which ones apply most to your personal leadership development and your skills at coaching others? Which points are most critical to your organization’s leadership development and coaching efforts?

The article offers ten simple strategies to deal with the “ironies and contradictions that swirl around feedback.” Click Feedback: The Leadership Conundrum to read more about the findings and strategies