This week, I circled back with the staff member who originally delivered feedback that was hard to hear.
Transitioning the conversation from superfluous sports talk, I dove right in,”I want you to know that I’ve been thinking about the feedback you gave me a whole lot.”
After pausing,”I want to thank you again for having the courage to share honest feedback with me the other day.”
She began to apologize. Maybe she didn’t anticipate I would take it so seriously.
“Please don’t apologize. I have blind spots. We all have them.”
And then,“I’m glad you pointed them out to me. I want feedback so that I can grow and become a better leader.”
Moving into the practical, “One change I commit to going forward, is clearly communicating where I am at on a decision, before asking for your input.”
“I would like that,“ she bounced back.
“It was unfair and confusing when I would ask for your ideas, and then move us in a different direction. I am sorry about that.”
I added,“Another thing I want going forward, is for you to keep giving me feedback. I really value it.”
She just smiled. Then she said, “You are a great leader.”
I’m not a great leader (yet). I am rapidly growing in my proficiencies as a school leader. But what I am hearing and learning is anecdotally true; People want to follow a leader who is real and willing to listen. This is perhaps my greatest takeaway.
Finally, I’d like to share some of the greatest takeaways Donny Ebstein’s book. I devoured this audio book while driving to and from work on the interstate, over the course of a couple weeks.
Learning: “I Hear You: Repair Communication Breakdowns, Negotiate Successfully, and Build Consensus…in Three Simple Steps”
1. Adopting a proactive, optimistic approach is the secret to making a change. We always have the power to change things by behaving differently. The dynamics can be changed, just by one of the parties doing something differently.
2. Changing your behavior without changing your perspective will not work. People can spot a fake. Just using the right buzzwords “I hear you. I empathize with you.” ultimately backfires if we are not willing to flex our minds.
3. Flex your mind. Our lack of awareness is greatest in the “stuck” situations that give us the most trouble. But building the capacity to stand between two perspectives is transformational. We have to see more than our own story. We don’t have to lose our own perspectives, in exchange for the other person’s. But when we work to look at things from a variety of perspectives, we find multiple ways to respond. When we don’t. we can become imprisoned by our own point of view.
4. Show people you’ve listened and absorb their feedback. Share reflections on what you want to do different. Ask for help on improving on your blindspots. Apologize for unintended impact of your words.
5. Don’t hide from your own feedback. Use it to grow. To reverse your perspective, ask “How might it be me, after all?” “If what I am being told is true, would be the worst part of that? What would be scary about that? What would I need to do?
6. We can always get unstuck. Gaining a better understanding of the situation, experiencing improved dialogue, making peace with the status quo, and walking away, are all within our own control.
Image by Tihn Te Photos via Flickr