Most leaders don’t live by the motto: “do what I say, not what I do.” Their apparent hypocritical behavior is innocent and sincere. They simply don’t know that their actions are seen as out of step with their words.
Not checking blind spots can lead to deadly highway accidents. Leaders who don’t seek feedback often develop deadly blind spots. And when the crash happens, the blind leader is taken by surprise. “Why didn’t anyone tell me about this sooner?”
Correlation studies drawing on Zenger Folkman’s extensive 360 databases show the dramatic impact of a leader’s inclination to ask for feedback and leadership effectiveness. The blindest leaders who actively discourage feedback may be blissful in their ignorance — and highly ineffective. Their counterparts at the opposite end of the feedback spectrum — with their eyes and ears wide open — are over four times more effective.
What you do speaks so loudly people can’t hear what you’re saying. Here are a few ways you can check your blind spots and build a feedback-rich culture:
- Get unfiltered and anonymous feedback on your leadership effectiveness with 360 assessments. Build personal and team development plans around that feedback that leverages strengths and addresses any fatal flaws.
- Use an external coach to leverage your strengths in building a personal development plan from a feedback assessment.
- Turn feedback into change through acceptance, prioritization, and action planning.
- When completing a direct report’s performance appraisal, ask for input on your own behavior (and the effectiveness of that coaching).
- Run focus groups using a cross-section of people in your organization. A neutral facilitator can prepare a report summarizing the feedback.
- Periodically do group assessments of your meeting effectiveness. Ask what you should keep, stop, or start doing to make your work together more effective.
- Get an assessment from external consultants based on some combination of surveys, reviews, focus groups, and customer feedback.
- Network informally among peers in and out of your organization. Seek input on everything from personal observations to rumors they’ve heard about you.
- Watch for signs of moose-on-the-table such as lack of follow-through, real conversations happening outside the meeting, shunning personal accountability, blame-storming, sudden surprises erupting into major problems, etc.
Many leaders don’t know they’re raising the snicker factor. Bit by innocent bit they’re seen as a hypocrite. Strong feedback channels and practices are vital to avoiding this problem and boosting leadership effectiveness.
French author and Nobel Prize winner in Literature, André Gide, said, “The true hypocrite is the one who ceases to perceive his deception, the one who lies with sincerity.” Are your actions contradicting your words? How do you know?