5 ways to leverage feedback for being an authentic leader

Monday, April 3, 2017 - 15:42

Being authentic in workplace interactions requires clarity of intention. The most frequent and important of these interactions is the giving and receiving of feedback. Well conducted feedback affects personal and professional growth in exponentially positive ways. Likewise, inauthentic feedback with disguised intentions infects workplace culture allowing resentment and suspicion to fester. The following five points outline how you can leverage feedback to be a more authentic leader.

Leading by example

Modern business demands fast results and the fastest way to get anything done is to do it yourself. The more people included in a task the more complex it becomes. The downside is that charging off after a result and then sending back a directive to do it the same way fails to inspire your team to experiment with new ways of working. If you want to inspire initiative then set an example for working that is driven by the purpose and values of the company.

Asking for feedback

I conducted research with 500 employees working at 10 leading Australian brands across a variety of industries. 80% of the participants in the study gave advice daily. Less than 10% ask for feedback daily. Given that people are more likely to listen to feedback and put it into action when they ask for it leaders can immediately improve the way they conduct feedback in the workplace by setting the example of asking for feedback on a daily basis.

Matching agendas with intent

Any meeting conducted without an agenda is one-way information sharing. The leader has called the meeting to upload new information and is not asking people to volunteer or share ideas. If the intent of a meeting is to ask questions and listen to people's perspective then the topic of contention should be clearly set out in an agenda at least one hour prior to the meeting. Leaders with a highly improvised style of leadership are most likely to ditch the agenda. They sacrifice the contributions of anyone in the room who is a highly analytical thinker or typically introverted.

Opinions and facts

Launching straight into opinions when giving feedback shocks the recipient. Admit that your opinions weigh the most inside your head. Sharing an opinion is like buying a new car, the minute you drive it out of the shop it loses half its value. Feedback sessions start more effectively if they begin with details that both parties are aware of. If you are feeding back on punctuality avoid saying, "continually arriving late to meetings shows you lack respect for people's time" and swap to, "this week you were late to these three meetings".

Admit your contribution

Reflect on why you are giving feedback. Is it to blame the person for a mistake or is it to reach a resolution on how the team can perform better in the future. To demonstrate the latter try admitting your contribution. In the case of the punctuality example, you might volunteer that you haven't documented a policy for meeting conduct and shared it with the teams. Then ask if that would help the person prioritise arriving early at meetings.

Authenticity starts with being honest with yourself. This is extremely difficult to do given how busy and distracted the modern workplace is. Take the time to reflect on your own behaviour and ask the team to feedback to you when it is not consistent with the values you want to uphold. Doing so will raise the levels of trust and respect for your organisation.

Matt Jackson is the founder of affectors, a business that identifies people problems in workplace culture so that organisations can lift their creativity and team performance. His latest book, The Age of Affect is now available instore or online

AIM’s Leading, Managing and Developing People unit is a core unit of our Graduate Certificate, Graduate Diploma and MBA. As much about self-reflection as it is about learning strategies to manage others more efficiently, this unit will boost your awareness and help you think objectively about your capabilities as a leader. Leaders and managers achieve organisational objectives through the people they lead, so if you can be better at engaging, motivating, and developing people, you’ll stand to increase your own productivity and that of the organisation as a whole.