feedback helps pinpoint your direction

A few years ago, our family visited a corn maze. It was a series of 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. 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 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 pulled out our phones and took a photo of the maze map. We were clearly going to get through the cornfield in record time.

Once we were deep into the maze and hopelessly confused, we pulled out our map photos to figure out what route to take. It was totally useless. There wasn’t a 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 put our maps away and stumbled blindly through the maze with the rest of our family.

Tomorrow we publish my April blogs in the May issue of The Leader Letter. This issue focuses on feedback. Feedback is the blinking blue dot that shows “you are here.” Like a cluster of GPS satellites triangulating our location, effective 360-degree feedback pulls together data from direct reports, managers, peers, and others to pinpoint a leader’s effectiveness. BUT, not all behaviors have the same impact. Measuring irrelevant behaviors is one of the 12 components adding more spin to the 360-degree feedback death spiral. You’ll find keys to navigate through the maze of the many thousands of 360 tools and approaches now available.

An ancient philosopher said, “we can easily forgive a child who is afraid of the dark; the real tragedy of life is when (leaders) are afraid of the light.” We’ll look at how many leaders are allergic to feedback and blissfully ignorant. Their reactions are to be “prisoners of score” or “me-deep in fooling themselves.” As Zenger Folkman’s 360 assessments show, when leaders seek out and act on feedback, they’re up to four times more effective than their peers. But good leaders can also fall short of extraordinary leadership because they don’t know and leverage their strengths.

Ignorance may be bliss, but it’s deadly to leadership effectiveness. What if you’re “that boss?” What if you think your blinking blue dot is in a completely different place than everyone feels it is? Their perceptions form your leadership reality. You could be badly lost in the maze and not even know it. If you don’t know where you are, you may not be there. Informal feedback isn’t as precise at pinpointing your location as an effective 360-degree assessment. But it can show roughly where you are. We’ll look at how you can do an informal 360 and other ways of getting feedback.

Where’s your blinking blue dot? How do you know?