How Our Customers Help Us Grow

Today I started working with a new client that reminded me of some fantastic basic lessons in how much there is to keep learning from our customers.

The coaching program I designed, and is supported by the client’s boss, includes a 360 degree leadership assessment.  “No big deal” I am thinking.  “Let’s just see how you and others perceive you as a leader”, I say. “And from there, we can set some development goals that make sense for your situation.”  Typically, the clients I use 360 assessments with see them as a positive, enriching and strategic component to supporting leadership development.  But to this client, it was a HUGE big deal.  She was freaking out about having to do a 360 assessment, and her boss and I were clueless until we opened up the conversation about it.

We were reminded that there are bosses and HR professionals who don’t use 360 assessments constructively – specifically her past bosses.   They called in the Executive Coach to bring their 360 feedback assessments to sort out problem people and try to fix them. Most of the time, these situations turned out in terminations.  Yikes!! The problem is, what is broken is not usually the person.  It’s the way the company manages performance, or the way the boss handles developing their people.  In those cases, 360 degree feedback gets a bad rap.

So we pulled back today and decided not to send the leader into the fray where she would have to prove to those she asked to participate that she isn’t in hot water or one foot out the door.

The bummer is, she will have to wait a lot longer to get some really rich feedback about what she does really well and should keep doing – something she could use a good dose of right now after having weathered a tough company acquisition.

That’s OK and we will figure out other ways to support her growth.  But………..what a great wake up call for me about a few things that I think apply to many situations.

1. Never assume you understand the reality someone else is living.  Take the time to ask good questions early in a relationship and often as you go.  Things change fast, and history has a lot of force.

2. Be prepared to change direction from your “ideal” solution to one that makes the most sense for those you are serving

3. Be patient and creative.  There are many ways to get to the same outcome.

I’m sure there are more, but was told once that 3 is a good number to start with. Things don’t always turn out how you think they will.  Glad today we were all open to doing things differently.  Here’s to learning from our customers!


Managing Feedback: Do You Have The Guts To See Yourself As Others Do

For many executives, January is the time of year to refocus your organization on the goals ahead for a successful year.  A fantastic strategy to set the foundation for a high performance organization is to look at the past year and evaluate what worked, what didn’t go so well and how things could be changed to do better.  360 degree feedback is a powerful tool to assist with that analysis, and as an Executive Coach, I support leaders with this process very frequently.

When used properly, gathering feedback about how others percieve you, can be a game changing experience.  Several clients I am working with right now have me worried however.  It seems likely that although they were willing participants or initiators of the feedback gathering, they are treating the data that has come back with a teflon shield and letting the learning value roll right off their backs like water on a duck.

One leader is on the cusp of being fired and this feedback process is being offered to him to help him turn things around.  When reviewing stakeholder feedback with him, I didn’t get one impression he is willing to accept others perceptions as possible realities.  He had an explanation for everything vs. taking ownership that his actions cause some negative reactions – especially with his boss!  Avoiding the reality of how others experience him is likely going to turn him OUT of his company vs. turn his career IN his company around.

Another executive I am working with has just been promoted to heading up a mid-sized company.  Strong feedback has been shared with him about some of his leadership characteristics that either annoy others or cause people to tune him out.  His credibility is on the line which could affect followership and executive sponsorship.  My bet is he will work hard to manage this perception, but it won’t be as easy as he thinks to change his style.

Both leaders are praised for their technical acumen.  Yet both leaders are not considered as successful as they could be and others want them to be because of leadership behaviors that not aligned with company expectations.  Quality feedback is on their doorstep.  It’s up to them what they choose to do with it. I’ll update you in the days ahead how things go for each of them.

For suggestions on how to give and receive feedback, here’s a great article written by the Management Research Group, a global assessment company I use in my coaching practice.  It’s titled:  Accepting Feedback, Altering Behavior: The Achilles Heel of Human Development