An elderly gentleman went to the doctor about a gas problem. “But,” he told the doctor, “it really doesn’t bother me too much. When I pass gas, they never smell and are always silent. As a matter of fact, I’ve passed gas at least 10 times since I’ve been here in your office. You didn’t know I was doing it because they don’t smell and are silent.”

“I see,” the doctor replied as he examined him. When he was finished, he wrote a prescription and handed it to his patient. Take these pills three times a day and come back to see me next week,” he instructed.

The next week the gentleman was back. “Doctor,” he exclaimed, “I don’t know what medication you gave me, but now my gas…although still silent…stinks terribly!” The doctor said, “Good! Now that we’ve cleared up your sinuses, let’s work on your hearing.”


Their Perceptions Are My Leadership Reality

Key to leadership development is understanding how others see me. So, I need to understand their perceptions of my behavior. My effectiveness in leading, relating to, or working with others depends on their perceptions of me.

I may not agree with what they see, but their perception is our reality. Those around me have an opinion of who they think the real me is. Their perceived “truth” becomes the way they treat me. Their perception forms their side of the reality of our relationship.


Are You in The Learning Zone?

In his latest newsletter, Joe Folkman draws from Zenger Folkman’s 360 database to provide keys for Staying In The Learning Zone. As part of Zenger Folkman’s recent research on coachability, Joe shows The Learning Zone as the sweet spot on a continuum between the “I can’t zone” and the “I don’t care zone.”

Joe reports, “We found that what set highly coachable leaders apart was their scores on one particular survey item in their 360-degree assessment: Does this person SEEK and RESPOND (his emphasis) to feedback? Coachable leaders continually SEEK after feedback. They have mastered this habit, and because of the positive way they RESPOND to that feedback, the door opens for them to get more.”


Ways to Live in The Feedback Zone

The most powerful and accurate feedback is a well-designed 360 assessment process with strengths-based coaching. The Clemmer Group’s long partnership with Zenger Folkman is based on their evidence-based approach to 360 assessment and strengths-based leadership development. Click here to peruse a series of research and resources on this approach, including how to How to Avoid Spinning into the 360 Degree Feedback Death Spiral.

Here are a few ways to get informal personal feedback — IF you want to live in The Learning Zone.

  • When doing a performance appraisal with a team member, ask for feedback on what you should keep, stop, and start doing to strengthen your leadership.
  • Regular assessment of meeting effectiveness and your leadership of the session
  • Ask someone to be the devil’s advocate and lead debates into areas you may not have considered fully.
  • Focus groups (cross-section of people in your team/organization) run by a neutral facilitator who prepares a report summarizing the feedback.
  • Coaching and feedback from a mentor who wants to help you succeed.
  • Informal networking, among peers who may not be in your organization but part of the bigger organization, to tune into personal input/observations or “the grapevine.”
  • Personal development with an external coach.
  • When you’ve made a mistake, admit it. Ask for input on how you can correct it.
  • When you’re trying to build a team consensus or get the team’s input, hold back your opinion until you’ve heard from everyone.


Building a Learning Team and Feedback-Rich Culture

Here are some ways for your team to build a feedback-rich culture in the organizational Learning Zone:

  • Lesson’s Learned project reviews.
  • Regular team/organization engagement or attitude surveys through a third party. Review the results with the people who have completed the survey to clarify their feedback. Get them involved in making the improvements they’re suggesting.
  • Annual two to three-day off-site retreat with your team focusing on organization and team development strategies.
  • Assessment from expert external consultants based on some combination of surveys, documentation/process review, focus groups, customer feedback, and/or confidential interviews.
  • Self-assessments by your team and/or others based on an organization effectiveness framework/approach or best practices model.
  • Regularly use these questions: What should we keep doing? What should we stop doing? What should we start doing?
  • Brainstorm potential issues by asking for input on the “dumbest things we do around here,” “biggest barriers to reaching our goals,” “major implementation issues we need to address,” “pet peeves,” “dumb rules and forms,” “things that drive you crazy,” or the like. List each point. Cluster the similar points until you have 5-7 major groupings or clusters. Identify those things your team directly controls, can influence, and doesn’t control at all. Prioritize the things you control or can influence and get ideas/volunteers/plans to address them.
  • Ensure your team’s laughter index is high. Use humor to defuse tension or keep things light. You could appoint a Director of Fun, take joke breaks, use humorous video clips, have dress-up theme days, and the like.
  • Develop a team process for instant feedback on destructive humor, such as zingers, pot shots, and putdowns. This should be a meeting ground rule. Some groups simply tap their pens on water glasses or coffee mugs when a team member negatively zings someone else.

Like beauty, quality, or integrity, leadership is in the eye of the beholder. I judge myself by my intentions. Others judge me by my actions. My intentions and the actions that others see may be miles apart.

Unless I know that, I am unlikely to change my actions or try to get others to see me differently.