Episode #34: Leadership is Perception – 360 Reviews and other Feedback Tools to Boost Awareness and Accelerate Growth
People just don’t understand. Have you ever had this thought before? Well, this is a question and a complaint that leaders do not have the luxury of ever uttering. Why is that? Well, it’s because, in leadership, perception is reality. One of the things that leadership scholars know about leadership is that it is very, very difficult to measure it. It is difficult to define it. That is because what moves the needle in one organization isn’t what moves it in another organization. It’s all about how you are perceived, and that perception actually happens out of your sphere of control, right? It happens in the hearts and minds of those who are perceiving you, your followers, your peers, your managers, your board members, your children.
So today, we’re going to talk about the pros and cons of asking for feedback. I’m going to focus a lot on a tool called a 360-degree review. It’s a great tool. However, a lot of the pitfalls of this tool are not well understood by most, and it’s a tool that can easily become a weapon or a tool of oppression. There are actually a lot of good reasons to be skeptical about the value of receiving feedback from your followers and to be wary of it.
Welcome back to Allowed. I want to talk today about leadership as perception and what it is that we can do about that, what is within our ability to control, and the importance of getting feedback about ourselves as leaders in whatever sphere we’re leading. Now, it could be that you are afraid of receiving feedback, I wouldn’t blame you. That’s very, very common fear. So, I’m going to give you some actionable tools and tips if you are a leader of any kind who’s interested in getting a big boost in your awareness of how you’re being perceived.
I’m going to focus a lot on a tool called a 360-degree review. This is considered a gold standard, best in class tool that many executive coaches including myself use from time to time with our executive leaders, our CEOs, or founders, all the way down throughout the organization. It can actually be a tool to further ingrain a systematic oppression. If that’s happening in your organization, and I know few where it is not happening, then it’s important to be aware of the potential for the harm that a 360 can do.
I also want to talk about a couple other tools and options that you could think about including the exciting and really fun to receive Zone of Genius feedback review, and this is one of the hallmarks of the Forward Fearless training program that I do for conscious leaders. It’s my online group coaching program. We’re actually in the kind of tail end of the enrollment period for right now. It’s almost full. So, I know that a lot of you are interested in this. I’ve been seeing all the emails and enrollments come in, which is really exciting, but like I’ve said before, we do keep it small. It’s important to get your signup in ASAP.
So, if you’re interested in it, please don’t let yourself forget. Just open up your web browser right now, wherever you’re listening. Please go to caneel.com. You can also find the link from allowedpodcast.com if you’re not sure the spelling of my name, which is by the way C-A-N-E-E-L. When you get there, you’ll be able to find a link to sign up for Forward Fearless. If by chance the waitlist is now activated, because it has filled up which I think will happen in a little bit here, then please go ahead and sign up on the waiting list because you don’t want to miss your next shot. This is something I don’t enroll all the time.
It’s a really rich in-depth program, and that’s where we do our Zone of Genius feedback process, which is amazing to get a bunch of great feedback about how you are and your essence when you’re at your best. That’s the place where you can find joy and flow and where it matters a whole lot less what other people think of you, anyway. So, I really encourage you to check that out.
Okay, so let’s get into it. Let’s get into this topic here. First, I want to thank you again for coming back. We are in Fourth of July week and what a stunning time to be an American. We are about to approach our Independence Day. This is a confusing time, I would say to consider ourselves independent when what’s at the forefront of my mind certainly and I know many of yours is our total blind spot around how interdependent we actually are. I think our independence as individuals here in this country, we’re beginning to see that that’s a bit of a veneer in many ways.
We highly value individualism and independence, but with the Coronavirus pandemic and the, thank goodness, higher awakening to the system of oppression that is our way of living in this country and has been since the beginning. We cannot ignore our interdependence, we cannot, and we must not. We really must not. This is relevant to this topic of feedback, this why I’m bringing it up. When we are leading consciously, we have the opportunity to live a life where our primary goal is to learn, it’s not to be right, where our primary aim is to listen and to understand.
I think that’s a challenging mindset to step into when we all know how skewed perception is, wherever you are in the spectrum of privilege. You think you’re aware of skewed perception is, but in my experience, those who are the uber-privileged have a lot less of a sense of how biased feedback is that comes your way. It can make it feel easy to get feedback. But for many of us, it’s scary. For others, it feels like a waste of time. But I would say that even the most privileged of CEOs that I’ve ever worked with are scared of receiving feedback and it makes sense, okay? It’s very vulnerable. So, I want to speak to that as well. I’ve heard lots of leaders talk about this.
We’ll be having Jeremi Gorman, the Chief Business Officer from Snap on the show. One of the things that she’s going to talk about is the importance of listening right now. This has become a common refrain in the news, in corporate America, what leaders are speaking to, the importance of listening. I’m just so glad to be hearing that. So, please listen to this with open ears.
I want you to be thinking about where might you have avoided receiving feedback in the past, what learnings may you have missed out on, impossible to know the unknown unknowns. I want you to ask yourself also, where have I received feedback that I may not have wanted to ask for at the time? Maybe this feedback came to you as a shocking challenge or a mistake or hurtful words that you happen to overhear. How did it shape you? So, in anything we hear, there is something for us to learn.
Now, it doesn’t mean that anybody’s right about us when we hear feedback, but it means that there is a perception or at least that’s the way they’re reporting their perception, even that is challenging to do. But no matter what, there’s always something to learn in it, even if it’s not related to the actual content of what they’re sharing. So, ask yourself that question of what did I learn when I heard some challenging feedback?
And then lastly, have you had the chance to hear feedback that made your heart sing, that celebrated who you are at your core, that when you walked away, you had this sense of “Oh, that is who I am. That is when I’m at home in myself, that is when I’m at my best, that’s when I am an ease and flow. These are not only my strengths, but this comes naturally to me. So, naturally, I can’t help but do it. I would pay to do it.”? That would be more like Zone of Genius feedback, and it’s the kind of feedback we rarely have a chance to hear.
So, we all have this in mind that I’m hoping this is opening up some ideas around the potential opportunity for you as a leader to benefit from asking for feedback and listening. We are interdependent, it doesn’t mean anybody’s right. It’s up to us as leaders to choose what we’re going to do with it. I’m going to tell you now how to get that feedback and what could potential go wrong, some warnings. Let’s dive into this here.
Why is feedback such an important process for leaders to go through? I’m going to state the obvious here. One is, we don’t always know how we are being perceived. In the worst cases, we can be pretty sure that we actually do know, and we are mistaken. I think we’ve all worked for leaders like this, who really feel like they’ve got no blind spots and nothing else left to work on. There could be huge opportunities, and then making subtle shifts in behavior, or mindset, or just taking a few extra beats to make eye contact in the hallway. Pop a smile, ask a question, hold a boundary, say no, all these little things that we may have been… It changes our life dramatically if the leader doesn’t change in that way and a little bit of feedback could have really moved the needle.
So, if that leader never had that chance to learn how they’re perceived, they’re really missing out on that opportunity to learn and grow in their empathy and change if they should choose to change. So, that’s reason number one, we don’t always know how we are received.
A second reason that feedback is a really important process to go through as a leader is if you are working with a coach or you’re in a personal development program of some kind, you have the chance to bring additional data and information to the table. For those of you who are in sort of a coaching relationship with your manager, if you should choose to bring it to your manager, or if you have an accountability group or kind of a learning partner who’s a peer or a friend of yours, you can bring it to them and it helps to shed light on some things that you may not have thought to bring up.
One of the areas where I see people most commonly not bring information to the table is around their strengths. So, a lot of really high achievers, their main focus is where do I need to improve? Where do I need to improve? So, I’ve brought leaders 30-page feedback reports, and they go through. They’re scanning, and they’re like, “Where’s the section of all the things I need to start working on right now?” My job as the coach is to slow them down and say, “I want to spend time on that. However, this pattern here of you rushing to what do I need to do about it? What else do I need to change about myself, that pushing, pushing, pushing energy?
Actually, we’re probably going to see that reflected in the feedback as ‘This manager keeps pushing on all the new stuff we have to do, like we never get a breath. Things are never right, we have to keep changing everything. There’s this constant sense of dissatisfaction, lack of gratitude, lack of appreciation, lack of balance.’
I’m not saying that no one needs to work hard. You might really want to change, and you might really have willingness to do it, but here’s the ninja trick, okay? The way to make impact on the areas that are coming back as maybe they’re labeled as weaknesses or opportunities for growth depending on the language, the way that you’re going to best be able to address those areas and make the changes you most want to make is by leveraging the strengths that come back at the front end of at least my reports.” That’s what we start with.
Why we do that is because your strengths, your capacities, your innate abilities are lower energy, smoother, more effortless ways of you actually making those changes. In other words, you can efficiently address weaknesses by using your strengths. So, our job as a coach and a client is to start brainstorming about what can I do to use my strengths to address my weaknesses? This is like such a fun creative exercise. Often, we think to ourselves, “Well, there’s nothing I can do to use that particular strength. Okay, great. I’m great at making people laugh, but the weakness that’s coming back to me is I’ve been really weak in data and analytics.”
And then we have this brain puzzler of how can we help this leader to give people what it is that they’re needing that they’re reporting as data and analytics, give it to them in a way that leverages that naturally ability of sense of humor and of comedy. This is actually doable. I’ve seen it happen, because the comedian is the one who actually can connect the dots between really disparate occasions and events and find a funny but overlooked insight about how these two are logically linked. This is a formula behind many, many jokes. That actually is a fundamental skill of telling stories with data. So, we can work on it from a different perspective. Some of this is kind of about, “Let’s use your learning style to address it.”
Okay, backing up, the question that we’re working on here is, why is it so important for leaders to go through this process? So, we talked about, maybe I don’t know how I’m received as a leader. Number two, maybe my coach or my learning partner needs more data about how I’m received. I need a person to coach me through and help me work on how to leverage it as different pieces of me to make the changes that I choose to make.
And then the number three one would be I’ve plateaued. I’ve been working on myself a lot here. I’ve done all the things. I’ve been in coaching. I’ve read the books. I’ve gone to seminars. I am doing my meditation, and yet, I’m feeling kind of stuck, then bring in some more information. Gets some new inspiration, and it’s not just coming from your own perception. It’s not just you sitting there reading a book, or you in a coaching session, or you going to a training? Let’s bring some more voices in. Let’s use that skill of listening that is a core skill of a leader and see what new thing it can bring to light.
Okay, so that’s reason number three, is you feel you have plateaued. You’re getting a little bored with your growth game. What a great time to get some feedback. All right. So, moving on, I want to talk about one of the most popular ways to get feedback and this is a 360-degree review. It’s called 360-degree review, because unlike say a performance evaluation where you’re being rated by your manager, perhaps a couple of peers, a 360-degree review process is looking at you from all angles of perception. So, this would include your higher ups. So, your boss, your manager. If you are in the C suite or you work with a lot of external partners, this might include your board. It might include investors, advisors, external partners, big customers, clients.
It also would include those kind of at the side of you, if you think in the traditional organizational pyramid structure, those at the side of you would be at the peer level. These are people that you might collaborate with, you might be on a team with them. If you are a manager of managers, these might be really important people for you to have influence with in order to open up access to additional resources and conversations that you need to have in order for your team to be able to be most effective in your job and to cooperate with and collaborate with and innovate with. It would also include those who report up to you, and I cannot tell you what a massive blind spot so many corporations have around this one.
So rarely are people asking for feedback about their managers from the people that the managers are managing. It makes no sense. Is the manager’s job to manage, or is it to issue reports and manage up? If I’m going to hire a new manager, yeah, I’m going to check references from their old bosses and their old managers, but I am going to look for references from their old employees. They’re the ones who are going to help me better understand, “Is this person an effective manager?” Because there’s a certain style that’s really interested in managing up and maybe managing sideways, and they are not interested in managing down. That can be a very disempowering kind of a manager to manage to.
So, we want to get that feedback from all those different levels and even break it out and see how am I being perceived differently by different angles, by different parts of the organization. Also, personally because I am a whole person, executive coach, I like to look at your personal life as well. I learned this from a coach I worked with once, Bryan Franklin, one of the most amazing executive coaches and coaches and coaches in the world. He’s actually not coaching anymore. He’s a CEO of an organization again, and he’s taught me a lot.
One of the things that we first did together is he flew down to L.A. for a full day with me. He said, “First, we’re just going to spend a day together, and I’m going to come to your house.” He came in my house. I want to meet your husband. He looked at my calendar, and he looked at my bookcases. He looked at how my house was organized, and he just kind of felt out what my lifestyle was like. That was such a cool experience for him to shadow this very personal side of me. It really inspired me to be steadfast in this insistence that if we’re going to gather feedback about you as an executive and you’re going to make that big investment of time, money and everybody’s energy, I want to hear from your spouse. I want to hear from your partner.
I want to hear from the dear friends that you’ve had for a very long time who know you in a different way, who have seen you rock out on the dance floor, who have been camping with you, or cooked mac and cheese after you went skiing together, the ones that you go running with. These are the people that they know a different piece of you and often we’re going to find a very subtle, but foundational strengths that actually reflect a lot of your essence when you are at your best because you’re at ease.
As you may suspect and you might even be getting nervous with me describing this, we’ll also find how you are at your worst. In particular, we’ll find this once we go into the family. I’ve interviewed people’s children. I’ve interviewed their brothers. I’ve interviewed their mothers. It’s so cool to get to do this, but they have a really good sense of when you are reactive, when you are not conscious, not being a conscious leader who’s intentionally choosing how you’re behaving, how are you influencing then? What’s your impact then, chosen and unchosen impact, accidental impact? How valuable is that?
Now, maybe you’ve heard it from them a bunch of times, but when we are hearing about our own reactivity and the things that we’re most defensive about. If you go back to episode number two of Allowed, you can listen to an episode about something called your shadow. These are the parts of yourself that you deny, disown, and repress. They’re the parts we do not want to see, and we don’t want anyone to talk about them or see them. But when we’re getting feedback about that stuff, you can bet, our egos going to jump in and defend us like crazy. We might leave the room. We might yell. We might tune them out. We might make them wrong in some way. We might blame them. We might say, “Actually, that’s true of you,” flip it on them. All of these things blocked us from learning.
So, getting that kind of feedback in the context of a very well-crafted and expertly conducted 360-degree review gives you a much greater chance of learning from it, because it’s much safer. The stakes are weirdly lower in a context like that, face-to face with a coach that you trust, in a setting where it’s intentionally designed for your growth and learning and not for somebody else’s reactivity in the room as well. So, having that safe space to look at that feedback and put it into the context of “I’m not just that. I’m all of these different angles. So, how do I show up for my wife in those moments, the same as I’m showing up for my employees and I’m getting this great feedback from them, how great I am in crisis. How do I show up for her better that way?”
Putting this feedback together in the same document is really, really powerful. It’s also super powerful if you are seeing the same patterns come back from your personal life and your professional life. That can be that final wake-up call that suddenly gives you enough discomfort that change becomes easy. It becomes easy because you are finally willing to make the change and you’re no longer debating it with yourself. You become more open about it. So, I can’t advocate for that enough. If you are working with a coach who’s going to be conducting a 360 for you, I really recommend you requesting for the stakeholders in your personal life to be part of that 360. Okay, so that’s why it’s called a 360.
There’s also a little bit of another angle here, which is we want to be asking about the full spectrum of time in your life, best moments for a lot of your career. We want to be looking forward into the future, like what are some roadblocks and challenges that people are anticipating for you down the road? What changes do they think you will need to make in the future that right now it’s serving you well, but probably it’ll need to change, especially if you’re leading a fast-growing organization?
So much of that journey is about I need to change ahead of my organization. I need to be well practiced and masterful, like a little bit ahead of them, not way ahead. I need to match, right? But I need to be ready for that next thing. So, how do I get ready for what’s ahead? It also should look at different aspects of you. So, kind of a very, very simple framework would be what are this person’s strengths? What are their biggest opportunities for growth? What are the biggest challenges that you see ahead for them in the future? You could also ask questions and I’ve used all of these. What are three words that describe this person, or you could add, what are three words that describe them at their best or at their worst? What are some moments where you really remember this person impacting you?
That would be even a more kind of open, qualitative way to evaluate and get some of those stories. As you can see, it’s very rich and comprehensive. It’s a lot of work on the behalf of whoever’s conducting it for you, depending on how they do it. The highest touch way that I personally do it is I actually combine it with a shadowing experience where either myself or I’ll have another coach do it for complete fresh eyes, shadow you for let’s say four hours or a day or even two days and just observe you. Maybe ask questions in the hallway of people, just chit chat, see what it feels like in your organization. See what your meetings are run like, combine that first-hand experience with some interviews.
So, I usually ask for somewhere between 8 and 12 interviews. Although in some cases, I’ve interviewed over 15 people, and I’ve spent in some cases an hour plus in each interview. As you can see, it’s a really big-time investment. What’s really moving is how willing and excited people generally are to give that time. There’s so much leverage in helping a leader learn. Anybody who is a stakeholder in that leader’s life is going to want them to have that experience, because they want them to know their strengths. They also want them to have what they need so that they can make the changes they want to.
So, I’ll conduct all of that, and then I’ve got tons and tons of have notes, right, like over 100 pages of notes. I may also have it transcribed. And then either myself or a colleague will go through and we will dump all of it into a big spreadsheet, remove the names, but we’ll kind of categorize people by what kind of role they play in your life. And then we’ll go through and we’ll look for themes. So, in any given answer, we might find, oh, this relates to say three or five different topics, and we’ll kind of tag it with those topics. We’ll do that for the entire collection of data. Then we’ll say, “Which themes showed up the most?” We’ll explore those and we’ll try to understand how they fit together. Is there some higher-level structure that this all relates to?
My richest reports have had, say, five or six themes in each section. By the way, I was really overdoing it at this point, but then there’d be like, seven sub themes. You get so much back and it’s really interesting, and they always connect to each other, which is totally the fun part. We get all that and then we strip anything that hasn’t been mentioned enough to be considered consistent. So, for me, my bar is if I don’t hear the same theme come up in at least three people’s feedback, I will not be including it in the report. Often the number ends up being higher than that, simply because of the amount of consistency around certain themes where it’s very clear that that’s the focus. And then I might have kind of a grab bag theme in there for you.
So, what you’d get back as the reader, as the client… It’s an exciting day. It’s a day where you might feel some butterflies, but people are usually just chomping at the bit to get this report. Yes, guys, it does take time to write the report. So, I know you always want it right away. We work very, very hard on these. You’ll get back a long document. It’ll have in it a description of how we did it. It’ll remind you of how many people you invited, how many ended up responding, how many in each category. We make sure that there’s nothing that makes the person identifiable, the person who responded.
So, we could even take out any stories that we thought it’s going to be very obvious who this person was. We’ll always ask the respondents if they would like any particular quotes kind of struck from the record or stories removed. Sometimes there’s great consistency that every single person that’s responding to the report is really concerned about anonymity. That’s when a little red flag goes up for me. There’s a lot of fear here about this person receiving this feedback. And then we’ll dig into that. So, the cool thing with this interview format as opposed to like survey is as the coach, as the picture starts coming together from a bunch of different angles, I can now dig in and ask further questions and start to get a much richer, a better understanding.
As you can imagine, as I’m steering you through the report, it’ll be really helpful for me to be able to answer questions about the broader themes or why I might hypothesize that we’re hearing a certain kind of feedback. So, my report would have those three sections or usually a few more, few other questions. It will include a description of the theme and kind of the dynamic that we observed around that theme kind of explain how we think it’s showing up and perhaps even why if we know them well enough.
I’ll also include some illustrative quotes. Sometimes we choose not to do this, maybe it doesn’t feel like it’s necessary. That’s pretty rare, or there’s a lot of concern in the organization about including quotes and then we’ll talk to the client about it and have them struck. But typically, people do want quotes in there and I really want the quotes in there. It’s not something that you’re typically going to see happen from inside your organization from HR. It’s a mountain of work. It opens up a lot of tricky possibilities, which is why you need to work with someone very, very skillful for this, who has capacity and you do need to make the investment.
But those quotes, the reason that they’re there and why they’re so important is when you receive feedback, whether it’s a strength or an opportunity or a limitation, you need to be able to connect the dots between the perception that is reported in the feedback and your own behavior, your choices, your actions.
If you can even remember certain events, “Oh, I remember that time. I remember this time that the story is about, and five different people talked about this one event, this one meeting that happened. I remember that meeting and I remember thinking to myself, ‘I’m being a really strong leader right now.’ But what I’m seeing in this report is that’s not how it was perceived by my peers and by my boss and by my employees. In fact, they really saw me as steamrolling and people felt shut down and they left feeling really, really discouraged. I had no idea.”
“Conversely, I was in that meeting, and I thought, ‘Oh my gosh, I am really bombing here. I’m so embarrassed, my presentation sucked. I don’t even ever want to think about that meeting ever again.'” And then you see a lot of people coming back with “That was one of the most path changing meetings that we had, it’s the thing that really changed the trajectory of this entire project. I was inspired. I went out curious.” Whatever it is that feedback is, we often have no idea how positively we impact people. That is so often the case, especially with something like your Zone of Genius, because your Zone of Genius does come so naturally to you, that you may not even think it’s valuable.
You may think, “Well, anybody can do that. Anybody can wow people in a meeting and have them leave just scratching their heads and thinking about the world in a different way.” No, not anybody can do that. It is valuable, but sometimes you just need to hear it a million times and be able to connect the dots between how you’re perceived, how you’re received, and the actual behaviors that you did.
Now, the perceptions that are in this report are powerful to hear. That is true regardless of whether you believe the feedback or not, regardless of whether you think it’s positive feedback or negative, if it’s a strength or a weakness. Listening to people reporting back about you, knowing that they spent their precious time investing in you and your growth that way, it’s moving, it’s tender, and it’s vulnerable. It’s really important that I, as a coach, take enough time to give you the space to absorb it. This is something that’s very difficult to do for ourselves. As much as people are biased about how they see us. We are really biased about the feedback that we choose to listen to and not listen to. We will systematically zoom past the same feedback again and again and again in our lives.
A great coach is going to notice that and they’re going to say, “Hold on. Let’s back up. All the comments in these different sections that had anything to do with your creativity, I noticed that you didn’t spend a lot of time and then let’s go back. What’s that about? Let’s go back and explore that.” Or maybe you just really don’t want to focus on that strength section. And then I can kind of like hold your hand and help it feel more comfortable and safe to really dwell there and spend some time and work through whatever defensiveness or reactivity or what kind to shame or false humility that may be coming up so that you can get the juice out of it. So, that’s what you get, right?
You receive a report and you go through usually at least three coaching sessions, focusing on this feedback, and then it becomes a tool in your toolkit that we will keep coming back to as new situations arise. Oh, this connects to that feedback that you’ve gotten your 360 report. Let’s go back to that.
We also will probably set some goals and make some plans and action items coming out of the report. You’ll choose what you want to focus on, okay? So, it’s their perception, doesn’t mean it’s true. Remember, stories versus facts. People’s perception, if it’s just about your personality, your traits, strictly how they’re perceiving you, you really have to do a lot of deciphering and interpretation to understand it. So, it’s very important that the feedback also contains some of those facts. So, I remember a time when this happened, that da, da, da, da, da. I remember this particular event. Here’s a specific behavior that I see happen, and here’s when it tends to happen. Here’s how she looks when she gets triggered. Here’s the thing I see your body do, that kind of feedback is just so, so useful.
Now, me, as your coach, I will be able to bring that data in and better understand how you’re being received and not just taking it for granted that you have perfect vision of how you’re showing up. It’s very helpful for me as a coach. This is one of the reasons why I advocate for it and we really undercut the cost on this, because it is a game changer and it dramatically accelerates your ability to get results out of your coaching work. So, that’s the process.
Now, is that how the process always happen? Absolutely not. I want to talk about some variation and give you some warnings here. So, I often get some pushback on the amount of time, or the number of people, or the format of the questions, or the fact that it’s not quantitative and it’s happening in interviews. I want to just explain why we do it that way. If all we did was we sent out a survey and people rated you on a scale of one to five in seven different areas, you will have a very hard time creating an action plan coming out of that. You won’t know what to compare those results to. It won’t have any emotional meaning or heft for you except for maybe you feel good or you feel bad. You feel surprised. You feel, “Oh, yeah, that’s what I expected.” Not super useful, definitely not going to change the game.
Not to say that there’s not value in that. I might even include some questions, quantitative questions, that are from a survey in your 360-degree review. I might want to survey 200 people in your organization about how you’re being received as a leader, about how your culture seems to be shaped by you, but we’re going to look at those with the richness of the interview data.
And then the neat thing is we can come back, and my best clients sign up for this every year. We are going to keep doing those 360s, every 6 months, every 12 months, whatever your cadence is, being able to compare, “Oh, here’s how I was received then and here’s how I’m received now.” There’s a change in how I was perceived is all it means. It doesn’t mean anything other than that. So, all data means something, you just don’t know what it means. I think that’s a really useful thing to keep in mind.
Also, just because somebody thinks you need to change, they may not like something about how you’re showing up. They may be misunderstanding, just because of that, it doesn’t mean that you need to do anything about it. You are allowed to choose what feedback you are going to take in and what feedback you’re not. One of the reasons that I only would include feedback I’ve heard from at least three people, is because I want to be able to kind of push back on you and challenge you and say, “Hey, like if you hear someone say something about you once, okay, like that’s just their perception. If we’re hearing it broadly, that’s feedback that might be really worth listening to. How is it having an impact?”
So, it’s not that I’m not going to challenge you and any good coach would. But ultimately the challenge is what are you taking from this and what are you wanting to do about it? I’ve even had some people say, “Oh, people are not seeing my strengths here. I’m not showing them. I’m realizing I’m not showing them. Why is that? Well, this job has nothing to do with my strengths. I don’t like it. I don’t like this job. I can see in the feedback that me’s thinking that I’m sticking it out, and that this is going to earn my gold stars, and I’m finally make my parents proud. That’s not working. So, I’m going to leave.” That happens too, or “I’m going to have to really change my leadership style,” that happens too. So, it’s really for you to decide what you want to do about it and address it.
That said, I think it’s important to recognize those who took the time to give you the feedback and to come back at them at least with gratitude and appreciation and thanks. It’s a big investment. As scary it is to receive feedback, it’s also scary to give it. So, thank you is the first thing. And then the second one is, here’s what I learned. Okay, so this is also a step that is often missed in the process. I think it’s awesome when a CEO says, “I want to take this report…” I’ve had many CEOs do this. “I want to take this report and I want to share this with the board. I want to share with them like what I’m learning and where I really want to grow. I want to talk to them about this. So, this can become a context when we’re talking about how we’re trying to shape this organization.”
I’ve had people share it with… Say that they are managing 300 people that roll up to them, different layers of management. I’ve had people share it with all of those people. I’ve had people share it with their bosses or learning partner, or if they’re in some sort of a group coaching program, bring it to them or bring it to their therapist, bring it to your spouse. It’s a great thing to start opening up a dialogue because if it’s done right, it’s done in a very thoughtful, balanced, objective way, it’s reporting on subjective feedback in a way that is objective. It’s simply here’s what was heard. Here’s what was heard. It’s good qualitative research at its best when it’s done correctly.
Now, remember, I am a nerdy social science PhD. I totally geek out on qualitative methods, quantitative methods, statistics. I love this stuff. So, I really go crazy on it and not everybody’s like that. I doubt it’s necessary. I really doubt it’s necessary. Because it is true that sometimes after your first, say, five interviews, you have heard a lot of the themes that are going to come up later. I just really like that whole person approach and so I want to go deeper and richer.
One more tool I want to mention is a mini-360. So, this is something that can be done with open ended questions in a survey format. You’re still getting stories. You’re still getting some anecdotes and more concrete behavioral data, but it’s done in a way that’s really, really scalable. You can push a button and send it out to a bunch of people, and you get back tons of data. I have found that the data that comes back from that type of report tends to be really, really biased in this way. Those who are scared to speak up will not speak up in that format. So, the ones who will be responding are those who already feel safe giving you feedback, or they are typing mad and have never had a chance to give you feedback to begin with. That’s what you’re going to get back and it’s confusing.
And then you wonder to yourself, “Why did we only get 50% response rate? What are the other people thinking? Why didn’t they respond?” It opens up a lot of questions. I’m not a huge fan. However, very cheap, very scalable, gives us the opportunity to address a bigger organization, which is really useful in the case of culture and culture assessment and culture change. If I’m interested in how a CEO is shaping their culture and how the perception of them might be playing out at different levels of the organization broadly in different departments, I would go for that kind of a survey. Ultimately, the utility is in. Whatever it is that you learn, whatever you learn from it, you’re learning, you can’t mess it up.
A couple other tools I want to mention, I want to give a big shout out to my friends at 15Five. We just had them on the podcast a couple of weeks ago. So, Shane and David are two of the founders of 15Five, which is an incredible employee performance management, employee feedback tool. It also manages your OKRs. It is the bomb. I love it. One of the things it emphasizes… Well, there’s two things. One of them is more continuous feedback. It moves a lot of the feedback that is supposed to happen in a one-on-one and usually doesn’t. It moves it into a format that’s easier. It takes it out of the one-on-one but helps you prepare for a one-on-one so that you’re coming in and you’re actually using that one-on-one to learn instead of just go through tactics. The second emphasis is best self-management.
So, I talked earlier about the importance of feedback around strengths and what is possible when we manage to people’s strengths, when we focus on our own strengths, and when we are insistent on living in our Zone of Genius most of the time. It’s a radically different way of looking at something like performance management. But 15Five is an awesome tool. It’s more about continuous feedback than it is something like a yearly 360, and it’s a really great thing to pair with a 360 process. So, check that out, 15Five.com I will link to it in the show notes.
Okay, I would like to quickly contrast 360s from performance management. So, a 360, I believe, is not something that should be used to evaluate your performance relative to others. It’s not something that should be used to assess if you are ready for a promotion or a pay raise. It is not something to be used to kind of go into your HR file. It is a personal and professional development tool and process. The 360-degree process is missing if we think about this just as data. All of the issues with 360s, which I will now get into, they are going to bite you in the butt big time if you think of this as a tool for managing employee performance.
Here is the biggest problem that I see. So, yeah, we’re scared, feedback is scary. We don’t want to give it. We don’t want to receive it. Once we get the feedback, we have to do something about it. That’s scary. We don’t want to be accountable. Feedback might be coming from drama, may be coming from below the line. Feedback might not be accurate, it might not be actionable. That’s all obvious. The thing that we don’t talk about enough. This could not be more relevant than it is right now at this time in American history and this week, is that any feedback that you’re gathering that is in any way subjective in nature and even in often many cases, objective in nature is going to reflect the inherent biases of those who give the feedback.
So, if you are a woman and you are the only woman on your team, so you’re experiencing what’s called tokenism. You are token, which is a very, very challenging role to be in. You happen to be working in a very male dominated and say, highly gender biased industry, and tell me when it’s not, honestly. You are going to be receiving a whole bunch of sexism back in your report, a whole bunch. That’s not because anybody’s trying to hurt you, necessarily. It’s not necessarily because anybody’s thinking that women are not valuable. It’s because humans are biased in our perceptions.
This is one of the challenges with why people of color, women, LGBTQ, people that are too young, too old, different weights, different looks, different abilities, different capabilities, those who are different from those who are the privileged 1% are not going to be given the same chance to prove themselves again. When they walk in the room, there’s not as much kind of open arm-ness about how they’re received and how people are interpreting their actions. You have such a narrower span of behavior that’s going to be perceived in a positive leadership light. So, it is harder to be recognized and be successful and to move up when you are not that top 1%. Let’s just face it.
So, if you’re getting feedback back that saying, “Not that good, not taking care of details,” just take your lens out and say, “If I found this feedback report on the street, would I know this was about me? Is this about me? Or could this feedback maybe say 30% of it, 50%, 70%… Could this actually apply to anybody else in my demographic?” Because this is the bias. If you’re hearing that you’re not like helping out enough around the office, you’re not organized enough, is that because that’s all people want of you and that’s what they think you’re capable of? So if you’re getting back a lot of stuff that just feels like, “Oh, I keep getting this feedback,” the challenges if you are a token, if you are a minority and I’ve worked with a lot, you’re going to think that feedbacks about you. This is like the heartbreaker.
When I’ve been part of programs where I’m coaching say a lot of women of color or a lot of people who are coming out of institution and they’re getting back feedback, performance evaluations, or 360s, or whatever it is, continuous feedback, I as the coach can hear that they’re all getting the same feedback, but they are the only one in their department in that demographic. So, they think and have always thought because they’ve always been the only one, they think that the back is about them. Because they’ve heard it so much, it starts becoming the truth. So, it’s really hard as the coach as I’m like, “This is not about you. This is not about you. This feedback is not about you. What do we do now?”
So, I just want to give that as a word of caution and this is just always the case, right? A lot of feedback is a story. The most important story for you to be thinking about right now is what’s the story that you want to craft with your own life. If you’re interested in being a leader of other people, like a kind of a manager, positional power kind of a leader, then you do need to be aware of people’s perception because leadership is perception. But what changes people’s perception is often in their own blind spot. People might not know what would actually wake them up and change their perception. So, do not give up. People have a capacity to get surprised and to change their minds, but it’s going to be tricky for you if their blinders are on by default when they’re interacting with you.
And then the leadership challenge is much greater, and I know you feel the weight of this. I do too. I am sorry. I am sorry. It’s not fair and it is the human condition. So, here we are in Fourth of July week. The spectrum of experiences unfolding in these last few weeks in our country is so varied. Those of us who want to lead, and I know you do because you’re listening right now, our job in this week and really forever in the past and in the future… Our job is to listen. Great leaders are great listeners.
So, if you are a leader and you haven’t yet asked for feedback, I really encourage you to figure out what kind of feedback do you want to get? Why? What do you hope to do with it? Who would you like feedback from? There’s somebody that you think, “That person has never made me feel good. I don’t feel like I’m growing with them.” I would trust your wisdom on that. Maybe there’ll be another year where you want that kind of challenge and then you get it there, I do trust your gut. I would say, “If you’re kind of feeling skittish or you just have a really good instinct on it, go with your gut and pick people who are going to help grow you, who are invested in your growth.”
If you don’t have enough of those people around you, who you feel really can see you and hear you, then go find them. There are resources available. There are free community calls. I’m hosting a free community call, and you can go and check out my Facebook group, the C-Group. It’s a free call. We get together and we support each other as leaders. You can connect with the other people in this community who listened to this podcast and who do this work around conscious leadership. There are lots of other free calls like that out there on Zoom.
If you know of some that you really love, I’d love you to post them into that C-Group on the Facebook page, so that everybody in that community can have other resources to draw from. I know there’s been weeks where I’m like, “I just wish there was a call every hour of the day. I just need to call someone right now.” So yeah, please share. Also, there are group coaching programs available. Mine is only one. Again, if you have a favorite, I would love you to post it into our Facebook group, Caneel Joyce on Facebook. You can look me up.
Forward Fearless is an option. So, Forward Fearless, again, is my online group coaching program. During which, one of the big processes that we go through is gathering your Zone of Genius feedback. This is 100% self-affirming, visionary feedback about you from those who love you most. If you think that people do not see your genius, you are in for such a surprise. I have never had it be that people are not seen. When you actually ask people the questions in the right way, give them that opportunity to affirm you and your best, your most natural, your most brilliant and life giving, you’d be amazed how much consistency and coherence there is and how people really do see you. They do.
So, I want to give you that opportunity. I really want you to have that experience. It’s rich, it’s in-depth. I’m working on figuring out like, is there some way that I can just do this like way faster, way cheaper? I don’t think there is, but I’m still working on it. Either way Forward Fearless is a six-month program. It’s very powerful. We work on all of conscious leadership. In it, you will have a group of peers that you are working with. It’s a fairly small group. You’ll work with them twice a month, get together on the phone for two hours each time. We’ll work in small groups. We’ll work in pairs. You’ll have a learning partner or a small learning group, whatever your choice is, with whom you’ll meet between sessions.
And then you’ll be meting live with me and I’ll give you life coaching. I will challenge you and I will affirm you. I will love you and you’re going to love each other. It’s such a great group of people. If you are at all curious about it, and you’re thinking to yourself, “Where do I get this great feedback from? I don’t know that I have a place,” Forward Fearless could be that place for you. I trust your gut. If it’s for you, you’ll know. You can go to allowedpodcast.com to sign up. Like I mentioned earlier, it is almost full. So, I think there are still a couple spots available by the time this episode goes live.
Please if you’re curious, just get on it, first come, first serve, and sign up. I will be checking in with each person who signs up and just make sure it’s a really good fit for you. We’ll get started. It’ll open up again, I think in a matter of months, maybe not even until next year. This is really your chance, please go for it. There’s never been a better time or a more important time for you to lead consciously. If that’s what you’re interested in, why wouldn’t you want some more feedback?
So, I’m going to give you guys some tools there. Please go check out our Facebook group, our Facebook page, join the C-Call. Please check out the Forward Fearless program. You can find all of that plus show notes, a video of this podcast recording, plus every other podcast recording that we’ve had, transcripts, tools, freebies, tons of good stuff all at allowedpodcast.com as well as at caneel.com. Either one, you’ll find me.
Thank you so much for making the time this week. This is a big week, whether you’re listening this week, Fourth of July or not. Let’s all stick together. Let’s listen first. Let’s seek to understand. Let’s listen not just for what’s being said, but for what’s being meant. Let’s listen with our whole bodies. We are one. We are interdependent. Independence Day, I want to start saying that as we are independent from what’s been holding us back. I think one of the big things is we keep thinking we’re independent. We are interdependent creatures, human animals. You are beautiful creatures. Thank you so much for being here. I can’t wait to see you in the C-Group, and I will see you also next week. Bye-bye.