Maxwell Executive Leadership Podcast #14: Feedback that Leads to Change
In Episode 14 of our Executive Leadership Podcast, we explore the importance of feedback in Level 3 of the 5 Levels of Leadership — this means feedback not only that we ask for, but also the feedback we should give.
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Read the transcript below:
Welcome to the John Maxwell Company Executive Leadership Podcast where our goal is to help you increase your level of influence, increase your reputation as a leader, and increase your ability to fully engage your team to drive remarkable results. Hi, I’m Perry Holley, a John Maxwell Company facilitator and coach and I’m Chris Goede, Vice President of The John Maxwell Company. Welcome and thank you for joining.
Chris, today’s topic is titled “Feedback that leads to change,” and it’s one of the questions we received from listeners everywhere in our our workshops that says that leaders are not often providing regular constructive feedback to their followers. I hear this when I ask people, what can I help you with? They say, I don’t know how I’m doing. How important is feedback to developing influence with others in the 5 Levels model?
I think it’s essential. I think it’s a great question. You know, Greg Kagel, another one of our executive facilitators and coaches talks often about clarity, alignment, and accountability. And I think where this feedback fits into that model is the very first one, which is around clarity. And I think that the key to gaining clarity is to have continual feedback, to have sessions with your team members where it’s an ongoing dialogue and as leaders, we must establish open lines of communication. And not only should we ask for feedback ourselves, but we should also give it. So I think it’s a two way street. We’ve talked about this right now, but I think it’s essential when it comes to leading your team.
Well, when I’m speaking to audiences, especially managers, first line managers a lot and I say, do you think is important that you should provide feedback to the people on your team? Absolutely. Absolutely. I said, are you doing it, absolutely not. What? Why do you think leaders shy away from this obvious benefit to their people into their team? But why? Why do we not do that?
Well, I think the obvious answer people could say, well, they’re fearful of doing it. Maybe they don’t know, they don’t have enough time. And so you could use those, but I think maybe are kind of canned answers. But for me, when you, when you asked that question, here’s what comes to mind. I don’t think they give continual feedback because they don’t know their people. Now when I say know their people, I mean like truly understand them, you know, and in the business that we’re in, we’re in the people business. We do a lot of different behavioral assessments and leadership assessments and tools. And one of the keys for me is as you go through that, I think we’re all defined as how people or why people aand I think as you think about giving continual feedback, what you may see as feedback may not be received as feedback because they may be wired how people and you’re giving them the why or vice versa.
And so I think that we need to know our people better in order to effectively do that. And then when you do that, it reduces what we call is the intention versus perception gap. Which communication is probably one of the top two or three things that we hear a requested when it comes to training or coaching around leadership. And, that communication all begins to break down if you don’t know your people and there’s a massive IP gap, right?
Well, I asked them, I said to the ones that say they are really good at giving feedback, I said, give me an example. And it was all the good stuff and the people that shied away from giving feedback, it was because they needed to give some negative or constructive constructive feedback and they shied away from avoiding the conflict they felt might be in that. They’re not seeing the real value in that. When you tie it to 5 Levels, because that’s kind of our topic here. When you think about the 5 Levels of Leadership, is there a place that feedback really fits better than another?
Yeah, I think in order to give feedback, you need to build a great foundation of Level 2. Okay. But where feedback I think is most needed in most prominent comes under a Level 3, the production influence. So as an influence model, as a leader, if I’m working with you, number one, different levels with different people all the time and I’m beginning to work my way up the 5 Levels of Leadership. When I get to Level 3, one of the ways that we’re going to produce not into not only individually but in and through our team, is that if we’re giving continual feedback, and I think when do you do that growth happens, results happen, momentum happens. And one of the ways to do that is to make sure that you’re holding your people accountable in order to have that growth mindset. Right?
Good. Good. I know I had my mindset changed a little bit in a 5 Levels workshop. You know, we always talk about the three things every follower is asking about, you know, can you help me? Do you care about me? Can I trust you? So I always ask the people in the audience, I actually divide them up, help, care and trust. Tell me, how do you help? How do you care? How do you trust? I want to know because it’s one of those things you just blow off. You think, ah, I do it. Too Simple, right? I already do that. Now you don’t tell me how you do that. So one young lady said, and when I ask about care, she said, I said, how do you show care to your team? And she said, I provide regular feedback to them. The whole room was silent. I thought that was, that’s actually a spectacular is that I can use my desire to help you improve, to help you grow, to help you increase your potential by giving you feedback about blind spots or about performance issues. That’s a way of showing that I care about you. I want you to be better. I need you to be better and showing care. What are your thoughts on that?
Well, I think it’s a great story because that gives people a perspective of the power of continual feedback and it moves to your point from Level 2 to Level 3 to where they begin to produce together as a team by having that type of feedback. And I think that as you continue to build trust, and you gain the trust of your team, that continual feedback will almost become craved, right? I know I have some team members that every time we meet it will be like, let’s spend the last three to five minutes, give me some feedback. What am I doing right? What am I doing wrong, right? Where do I need to improve? And so think about when you say that, think about again, individually when you go through some of the growth times as a individual contributor or even if you’re leading people and your leaders having this conversation with you. You know, we all learned most of the time by the school of hard knocks and we’re gonna, we’re gonna fail. And it’s all about what we learned in those moments. And the only way we’re really going to learn is not only from our perspective but to get somebody else that’s leading us from outside perspective to give us continual feedback on what that looks like. Oftentimes I say understand what it looks like to be on the other side of you as a leader and the only way to do that is through continual feedback.
Well, I was going to ask you about your team and best practices, things you’ve seen. I’m going to break it to you in case you didn’t know this, that most people on their team, most leaders, the people in our team don’t come asking for the feedback and so they, they’re waiting for you. I like that your team does that. It’s probably a great tribute to you as a leader, what have you seen that really works? What’s the best practices of providing feedback?
Yeah, I think that’s a great question. I appreciate the compliment, but it’s really around the culture that John has built inside our organization and we try to not only go into corporate America around the world and do this, John makes us live it out first, right? And so we often will share stories with organizations about what’s going on inside John’s leadership organization. And so, he has built that culture in us to be able to kind of do things like that. So people are very open to doing that. Here’s a couple of things for you. It’s a good question. Uderstand that you, especially if it’s negative, because I think continual feedback, positive and negative, people automatically go to continual feedback when they hear the word feedback, they think about it’s negative, right? Because we’re not affirming somebody or maybe it’s not affirmation, it’s feedback, but it can be both positive and negative.
But here’s what I would tell you if it’s on the negative side, don’t let it build. Shovel the a pile while it’s small as so many people say when they, when it comes to making sure that you are giving them feedback. And here’s the other reason why I say do it quickly. Someone gave me an illustration one time about flying an airplane and they said if their coordinates, we’re off just a little bit. And they left San Diego. They were headed to Atlanta. Well, by the time they got outside of California, they may still feel like they’re on course and on path, but by the time they got to Atlanta, right, they didn’t change their coordinates. If someone hadn’t given them feedback to change, just make that small change they may have ended up in Orlando. And so I think about that illustration as a leader of my people on that plane and wherever their coordinates are set, how accurate is that and how do we continue to make adjustments all the time.
The final thing I would tell you is we have this little simple thing that we do. And it’s funny because I just had this conversation yesterday with one of my team members and I have to tell you as a leader, I’m not the one that brought the conversation up. The individual last week was like, Hey, listen, I’m going to have a conversation with you about where I’m at, what’s going on, where am I contributing, where am I missing it? And so over the weekend, I spent time thinking about what do I want this individual to start doing to stop doing and keep doing. And it’s a real simple little model. Start, stop, keep. By the way, little side note, if you’re married, it works really well. If you want to hear the feedback from your spouse. I’ve had this conversation sometimes my wife and I’ll just be at a dinner together. We’ll be like, here we go, start, stop, keep. And so it’s a great way to have a conversation with your team because you can think of two or three things about every team member that you have underneath each one of those categories.
I love that. And think about how I’ve learned to provide feedback. I need a little model and the people always should say, you need to have a feedback sandwich. Say something nice, tell them the real problem and tell them something nice. I wasn’t a big fan of that. What I have adopted since the young lady got me thinking about it. It’s a way of me showing care. First of all, it feeds my desire to care for my people, but also to have that direct conversation, but I always start with a immediately as quickly as possible feedback. Coaching can be planned and can be a set aside time and all that, but feedback I think can be in the moment, so we’re coming out of a sales call, coming out of a client presentation, coming out of a team meeting. I like to go and get a coffee. It can be casual, but I like to say one thing I thought you did really well in that sales call was this. One area where I thought you could use some improvement was this. What do you think? And all I really want by adding the what do you think is to generate a conversation that tells them I care about helping you be better, but how did you see it from where you sit? Here’s what I saw. Maybe they have a blind spot. Maybe I have one. Maybe they had a reason for doing that. You and I do that. Sometimes we’re talking about the content here. You say, why did you do this and you could say change it, but you say, tell me your thinking and then you see the outside. So I like to always say, what do you think? You generate that conversation and it really helps me to build a bridge with them and says, I care about y’all , I’m trying to help you. This isn’t about me dumping on you. It’s about me helping. That’s right.
I think, you know, when we talk about this and we talk about how do you give feedback as a leader, oftentimes you need to receive feedback from your team, as well. And I know that there are several different ways that you could look at doing this. Anything come to mind on something that’s worked for you or something in the past?
It’s funny, the start, stop, keep, I’ve used it different ways, but I’d seen that we had, and I probably had talked about that. So I have a team and I realize I’m giving feedback but I’m not receiving any feedback. So two things that jump out. One is from my boss who was always asked to, when I teach coaching, do you think it’s important to coach? Yes. Are you coaching? No. Why not? I don’t have time. So that’s one of the on the manager, on the leader for me, on the individual contributor, I found that if I will just say, hey boss, can I get some coaching for you for a few minutes? Not once have I been turned down. Not once have they said I don’t have time for that. They might say, can I call you back in 15 minutes? Can I see you at lunch?
They love this. They want so badly. I think most leaders want so badly to contribute, so I just had to ask on that. For me personally, from my team, they’re a little nervous. I said, so I go want a team meeting? I put up start, stop, keep. What should I start doing that would make us more effective? What should I stop doing is keeping us from being effective? What should I keep doing this helping us be effective? Crickets like nothing, right? I said, no, seriously. I want to know. I didn’t get much. They asked what are you going to do with this information? Like I was going to weaponize it or something, but I don’t know, so finally did it in one on one meetings, then got it to the group. Then they realized I’m serious. I’m trying to grow as a leader at the same way I’m trying to help you grow as a leader and then they trust. It is a trust issue. What do you do with that?
Yeah, that’s a great exercise. When you’re talking about putting your team in the room and even talking about as a team, what should we be doing right? Not even just as a leader and that’d be interesting to hear a conversation of what your team thinks that you guys should be working on and start doing what you should stop, what you keep doing. It was funny when you were given that illustration about how leaders want to get feedback. That’s exactly what happened last week. My team member said, Hey, can you give me some. And I said, you know what, let me just spend a little bit of time over the weekend, let me put some thought behind this and then we’ll have that conversation. And so I think as leaders we have, we absolutely want to do that and I want to make sure that we also then are seeking those that we work with, that we partner with, that we have influence with have that conversation
And we talked in a previous podcast about the inner circle, about those people that are closest and have your confidence sometimes asking them, help me with my blind spots is good. The feedback I think has been a game changer for most organizations and the ability for people to know in the moment how am I doing and what do I need to do to improve. It’s great. But as we wrap it up, any call to action or ideas for the team as they go out to meet their teams?
A couple of things, remember, feedback can be both positive and negative, right? Constructive, not negative, constructive, kind of even what you just said about, hey, here’s what I think I did well. Was it true at Cathy or somebody said, how do you know somebody needs a little encouragement? I’m sure they’re breathing, and so I think we should be giving continual feedback like you gave an example of both on the positive side, as well as constructive so that that plane doesn’t land in Orlando instead of Atlanta.
Coach Wooden’s said this, I love this quote. Everything we know we’ve learned from someone else. And, so my question for you leaders, whether you’re requiring feedback from your leader or whether you’re giving it but specifically right now for you is, are you teachable? Because you need to understand if you’re not teachable and you’re not learning from others, are receiving feedback from others than your team won’t be either because they’re going to model what you model. So that’s the first thing I’d say is, are you teachable?
And then my other thought is you can only give ongoing good feedback. When I say good feedback, that was constructive and positive. If there is clarity in the objective of which your team member is working towards. Okay, so whether it’s an organizational objective or department or your team’s objective, is there clarity back to what we started talking about with this? Is that as a leader it’s your responsibility to create that clarity as Greg Kagel has taught me. Right? Clarity, accountability and alignment. And if that is true, then you can give continual real time feedback. It’s very clear. We’re going o Atlanta from San Diego. Wait a minute. Our coordinates are off just a little bit. Let me let. Let’s adjust. Let’s move back. Let’s whatever. Right? I was reading this article the other day on culture and communication. It’s kind of the world we live in, so I’m always trying to, to learn and to pour in. And they surveyed 40,000 people, team members in different organizations, and 85 percent of them did not know and could not communicate what the top two or three objectives were of their team, department or organization.
Wow. 85 five percent. And so then I just look back to the leaders and I’m like, okay, that’s on you, that’s on us, that’s on me to make sure that I am communicating very clearly what your objectives are so that you have that right off the tip of your tongue. So just remember if you’re going to hold people accountable then and give them continuous feedback. We just need to make sure that the leader has complete clarity and is communicating clarity.
So my takeaway for you is this, are you teachable and are you modeling that? And the second one is, are you communicating with clarity so that when you give that continuous feedback, there’s not a gap there too where they’re looking at you like, Huh, you know? So those are my two things as far as from a leadership takeaway today.
Fantastic. Well thank you very much and thank you everyone for joining us. Just a reminder that if you would like more information on the 5 Levels of Leadership or would like to maybe have a 5 Levels of Leadership Workshop at your location, go to a John Maxwell.com/podcasts. Leave us a note there. You can ask a question, you can provide feedback. We always appreciate hearing from you, so thank you.
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