"Feedback is a gift." You've undoubtedly heard this many times over.
Feedback is so valuable that many organizations develop and use 180º and 360º assessments as part of their talent development activities. Often based on their own leadership models and/or performance systems, we have found many of them to be less than helpful to women's advancement. The most worrisome problem is that these assessments often overemphasize the importance of engagement skills. This is also true of many assessments developed by leadership development firms.
To counter these problems, Leading Women developed our own assessments that provide women the feedback they need to hear in proportions that are relevant to the level at which they are leading and to which they aspire.
We use these proprietary 180° and 360° assessments with the women participating in our programs. One of the most common questions they ask is how to discuss the feedback with their managers. Here are 6 tips we share with them:
- How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time. Our assessments cover a wide range of leadership skills. If you want to discuss the feedback from your manager, don't plan to review every bit of feedback. Instead, focus, focus, focus. Ask yourself, what's the one overall category on which you want to take action? And, perhaps one or two capabilities within that category.
- Set the table. The reason you're asking for feedback is to become an even stronger leader who is able to make a positive difference to your organization. Thank your manager for his/her feedback and explain that you'd like to gain further insights as part of your development plan. This will set positive conditions for a conversation. And, let him/her know what you'd like to discuss before you sit down so s/he can be prepared.
- Remember, "what you see depends on where you stand." I recently heard a story about sports reporter pioneer Lisa Saxon who, as you can imagine, had a tough time in the 1970s gaining access to players, coaches, and managers. She tells this story which I share for two reasons. First, how you ask matters. Second, remember that your manager is looking at you from a different perspective - the factors that shape her/his perceptions matter:
You can hear the entire story about Lisa Saxon and Melissa Ludtke here. This excerpt begins at 7:40 minutes.
- Be composed and be receptive. Instead of asking in a tone that implies, "What do you mean I'm not strategic?!" seek to understand what the competency (in this case, being strategic) would look like to your manager. Being receptive means you ask with an attitude of "tell me more." The purpose of the conversation isn't to explain to your manager why your perception of your skills is valid, it's to understand what the competencies look like from his/hers.
- People love to talk about themselves. Consider asking: How did you develop skills in this area (be specific)? What advice do you have for me on how to improve in this specific area?
- Be real. If you can't authentically value what you might hear from your manager, don't have the conversation.
And, remember, feedback is a gift. Even if your manager isn't skilled at giving feedback there will be a gem somewhere in what you hear.
If you are interested in having Leading Women work with your organization to help close the leadership gender gap contact us to find out more: