Five Reasons Honest Feedback Empowers Leaders

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This past week I reconnected with a woman in an organization I partner with frequently. She is relatively new to her job and wants to propel the institution forward in a big way. She has a dream and a vision but limited resources. This is how the conversation went:

Her question to me: “ I have a potential client for you to work with but I need to know immediately if you are available on those dates.”

To which I responded: “ I am available but have a question about the program.”

Her response: “That’s not possible to do. Unfortunately I need an answer now.”

In deciding how to handle this request, I decided to be honest with her about how I was feeling about the organization she represented.

“Although I have worked with your firm for many years I am feeling that things are different. Something has changed.”

She could have left it at that but decided to listen earnestly to my honest feedback and reached out to set up a time for me to visit with her at the new location. She sensed she needed to hear the truth.

Have you ever been afraid to receive information that may challenge what you are working on or how you are tackling a situation?

 Have you ever shut down a conversation where someone on your team was sharing a perspective that felt threatening to you but may have contained some truthful comments?

Here are five reasons how honest feedback fuels leaders to succeed:

1. THE TRUTH STEERS US IN THE RIGHT DIRECTION

Honest feedback will always be our friend and help us keep on the right path as long as it is shared in a respectful way. Sometimes leaders get so focused on meeting a deadline or accomplishing a task that they forget the purpose of what they are doing. I think this may have happened to the woman I spoke about earlier. She let the rules take over without thinking about what her organization was all about.

2. THE TRUTH FORTIFIES OUR CHARACTER

When we are forced to be patient and understanding we are building our leadership character. Honest feedback tests our ability to reach deep inside of ourselves and carefully analyze why we are performing in a certain way. It begs us to step back and breathe as we take stock in what type of leader we want to be.

3. THE TRUTH BUILDS TRUST WITH OTHERS

One of the greatest benefits of hearing the truth from somebody we work with is developing bonds and deeper connections.

  • Honest feedback helps leaders become stronger listeners
  • Honest feedback creates meaningful dialogue with others
  • Honest feedback enables us to see the valuable contributions of the people around us
  • Honest feedback empowers us to work harder with people with different viewpoints from our own

4. THE TRUTH DEVELOPS OUR CREDIBILITY

When leaders show colleagues, collaborators and bosses that we welcome honest feedback we build our credibility. Our willingness to be thoughtful about information being shared shows others that we value their suggestions and opinions. When we follow through by including everyone’s contributions we are doing what we say we will do. That results in us becoming more approachable and impactful leaders.

5. THE TRUTH OPENS UP DOORS

If we welcome honest feedback we will be opening our doors wider to more opportunities and deeper connections with everyone we work with. We will be showing others that their input is critical to our leadership success.

How has honest feedback empowered you to be a stronger leader?

10 thoughts on “Five Reasons Honest Feedback Empowers Leaders

  1. Your post made me stop and think about the number of times that I’ve closed down a conversation because I didn’t want to get into the weeds about why something was being done in a particular way. My feeling at the time was that it would take more time to stop and explain or encourage more discussion than to just get the job done! For me the dilemma is usually: is this going to waste more of my valuable time when the answer will turn out the same? In doing that, I lose perspective on the importance of the process…maybe the answer will be the same (or maybe not) but by allowing the individual to question it and come up with the same conclusion empowers that person to continue to do so in the future!

    Great article and I’ll share with others….

  2. Great addition LaRae! I’ve thought the same thing about whether my feedback would make a difference. However it is so critical to share the truth in order to help others evolve into the best leaders they can be. We would never grow if people weren’t honest with us so we must remember to be honest and respectful with our feedback.

    Thanks LaRae!

  3. The truth builds trust. I’m with you but so many people I know are afraid to speak the truth. I used to teach a course for managers on how to give feedback and conduct performance reviews. One manager in particular was sincerely petrified to give negative feedback. He worried that they’d hate him. First of all, his job wasn’t to be liked, it was to help his people grow and together deliver to their clients. When someone takes the time to tell you the truth, it’s a rarity. The truth isn’t just harsh words slapping you in the face but an opportunity…

    I’m impressed that you were so honest and forthright with your client. I know a lot of people who would have simply booked the business and figured it out later – good, bad or ugly.

    Thanks for sharing this piece. I’m left thinking about not only when I’m truthful with others but also honest with myself.

    Alli

  4. The truth is definitely a gift for leaders. That poor manager you spoke of didn’t understand his role as coach in helping develop others. Thanks so much for sharing that helpful story with us. I bet there are many managers who value being liked over value helping team members grow. The way leaders offer their honest feedback can make a difference too. Leaders need to be respectful, tactful and willing to listen to any counter points.

    Thanks Alli for your wonderful comments!

  5. Great article Terri! I find that asking for honest feedback, while challenging is really the only way to grow. It’s useful not only in the professional environment but on the personal front too. It’s always good to keep a pulse on how things are “really” going.

  6. You make some great points Kaylene! If leaders can be open to authentic and honest feedback they are more likely to address their blind spots and grow their leadership. And yes all the truthful feedback can be impactful in both our professional and personal lives. After all we are the same person in and out of the workplace.

    Thanks Kaylene!

  7. Hi Terri,

    All too often, we worry that honest feedback will hurt someone’s feelings. Thus, we put our desire to be kind and well-like ahead of a difficult conversation that might ultimately be beneficial to the receiver.

    A friend of mine was recently at a three day leadership class where she was challenged to step outside her comfort zone to give honest feedback. During the class, she decided to give feedback to a woman whose terrible hair style was distracting from her physical presence. My friend told the woman in a kind and loving way that her hair looked fake and ridiculous. The woman responded by telling her that she had a severe hair loss condition and was wearing a wig. She then briskly walked away.

    Not too much time passed before the woman came back and thanked her for the honesty. No one else had the guts to tell her that the wig was not serving her. When the woman looked at herself with that feedback in mind, she saw the wig for what it was – a cheap attempt at masking one problem and creating another in the process. She told my friend that because of the feedback, she would consult an expert to get a wig that would give her the confidence and presence she was seeking.

    Feedback is not always easy to give. It can hurt. Sometimes in spite of the hurt, it can create meaningful change.

    Will share.

    Terri

  8. Pretty amazing story Terri! Your friend had a lot of guts to share the truth but it sounds like she did it in a respectful and professional way. You bring up another essential point about honest feedback and it is equally as important to share it in a way that is caring and supportive. Learning how to deliver honest feedback is a critical skill for all leaders.

    Thanks Terri!

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