Recently we had a parent/teacher conference for my youngest daughter, Sydney. To confess, these meetings stress me. I got in so much trouble in school that I am always waiting for these teachers to tell me what I am doing wrong! Once I got over this, I heard great feedback on my child's performance. Beyond that these rockstar teachers provided action steps to help Sydney improve.
What began as fear and stress evolved into progress.
Not long ago our leadership staff heard a talk from Bill Hybels explaining that all leaders have "blind spots." He argued leaders have an average of 3 areas that we cannot discern but that everyone else knows and feels.
In an effort to identify my blind spots, I had to muster up some courage and ask for help. I am not afraid of much, but this had me trembling in fear. The most nerve-wracking part is that I enlisted the opinions of those who feel my deficiencies the most: My team.
Below I outline the strategy I used to invite the input of my team. As of this writing, I am still receiving feedback. Once I have clarified my blind spots I will share those with you as well. In the meantime I hope this process inspires you to chase after your own blind spots and seek truth from those you lead.
Here are 5 ways to identify your leadership weaknesses.
This process will be difficult. You will hear things about yourself you did not know and do not think are a big deal. This process proves that you are blind to some things and wrong about other things. Emotional and relational maturity is required. Get ready to put your big boy or big girl pants on.
Action Step: Prepare yourself to absorb hard truths.
Ask strategic people.
First of all, do not ask everyone. I only asked 5 people. If you lead a large team, you need to ask specific ones. Too many opinions cause a crippling effect. Narrow the number. Ask a blend of direct reports and peers. Make sure they are a diverse group.
Action Step: Chose a handful of people.
Ask the right way.
To receive complex feedback you need to have a simple system. The process should serve them, not you. The way you ask matters as much as what you ask. You cannot blindside someone by dropping the question on them, "What are my blindspots?" That is asking when it is convenient to you. That does not work. People need space to process and think.
I did 3 things in seeking feedback: First, I provided an easy evaluation tool. It narrowed their focus and accomplished my purpose. You can download this 360 DEGREE EVALUATION HERE for FREE! Second, I provided anonymity. They could be honest in their review and I would never have to know it was them. Finally, I communicated via email to save them any awkward face-to-face. Here is the email I sent to them. Feel free to copy and paste for yourself.
A few weeks ago we listened to Bill Hybels talk about "blind spots." He said everyone has 3 of them. I agree. Sometimes I feel like I have more!
Will you help me identify my blind spots?
For those of you who just panicked because you don't like these kinds of conversations, don't stress. I have made it easy for you. I've attached an excel file with a series of questions & places to grade me. If you would like, it can remain completely anonymous. Whatever makes you most comfortable. You can be honest and I never have to know it was you.
That said, regardless of what you say, I will not be angry. I realize that I'm putting myself out there, but if I don't then I'll never grow. I'm ok with awkward & dealing with pain. So please be honest. If you want to let me know which is your assessment, cool....if not...cool.
So please fill this out by the end of the week and send it back to either myself, if you do not mind me knowing, or to my assistant, if you would like to remain anonymous.
Thanks in advance. I want to serve you guys in a better way.
One last thing....only 5 of you received this. It is not an all skate. None of you know who else received it. So, one thing I would appreciate is if it could remain quiet. I do not need everyones voice...I need your voice. Thanks guys!
Your team likely loves you and wants to help you grow. They also like their job! If you are over emotional or reactionary, you may not get honesty out of them. Notice in my email I promised security for them. They had my word I would be mature. They also had an out to send it to my assistant if they needed it. I want their feedback, I do not want them stressed.
Action Step: Give those evaluating you the drama free guarantee.
Say thank you.
Who cares if you heard some things that were difficult? This process is not only about you! Your team had to say things that pained them. Often times saying is more difficult than hearing. Honor their honesty. Use this moment to add value to your team. Some on my team actually thanked me for doing this!
Action Step: Send a hand-written thank you note to each person. Communicate what you are going to work on.
Above all else, actually heed the advice of those who spoke into your life. You need their insight. Now, do something with it. Identify 3 themes from your feedback and overhaul those areas of your leadership this year.
Action Step: Make a list and make a change.
There you have it. All of the tools you need to identify areas of improvement in your leadership. I promise if you treat this right you will hear feedback that will make you better so that you can make others better! Good luck.