Soliciting assessments helps leaders grow.
An aspect of leadership that sets the old adage “’Tis better to give than receive” on its head is the act of actively seeking feedback. Leaders are often quick to give assessments but may have a harder time accepting them.
In our leadership development work, executives often seek advice about how to let a colleague know that his or her interactions and collaboration could be ... better. Everyone has encountered this situation, armed with a juicy piece of feedback that will set someone straight. The executives are then asked, “When is the last time you really asked that individual feedback about you?” No one ever raises a hand.
By inviting and readily accepting feedback about their performance, leaders acknowledge that they are accountable to the values they proclaim. Their willingness to request and give assessments also demonstrates a commitment to learning, deepening relationships and being exposed and vulnerable. The acquisition of critical—that is, astute and relevant—feedback from colleagues and direct reports helps leaders broaden their perspective and increases their attentiveness to future possibilities. Receiving outside assessments also helps keep managers and executives grounded as a light is shined into the corners of their leadership blind spots, avoiding the possibility that they will become “legends in their own minds.” (For more on this, see the webinar playback, “Members Cooperative CU is Developing & Leveraging Their Most Valuable Asset through Rigorous Training.”)
CUES member Joe Krull, member contact center manager with $1.5 billion Rogue Credit Union, Medford, Ore., says he has learned the benefits of asking his team for assessments.
In addition, “I now ask someone’s permission before I offer an assessment, and that has been very helpful in building relationships and improving my coaching,” Krull says. He realizes that the fact that he is a person’s manager does not inherently stimulate an appetite for feedback. Feedback given after permission has been truly granted will be more readily considered and embraced.
That’s not to say that sharing and receiving candid assessments is easy. “Giving honest feedback has always been hard for me. There’s been a gap in what I’m thinking and what I say. I didn’t want to hurt people’s feelings or push into an uncomfortable place,” says Jim Newstrom, regional branch manager of $859 million Seattle Credit Union. “But if you want to help people, you have to be honest with them. You have to do that in the right way and be authentic. It’s a work in progress, because I’m rewiring many years of behavior.”
“Do I really want to know what others think of me?” That sometimes feels like a dangerous question. However, for managers who seek to grow in ways that support leadership development, it is invaluable to gain those face-to-face insights by:
Embracing opportunities to become a better leader. Without feedback on their performance, leaders can end up “floating in the sea of ‘I’m doing OK,’” cautions Shelley Pierce, VP/branch operations with $1 billion Fibre Federal Credit Union, Longview, Wash. “But really, we want to do better than that … so it helps to continually ask for feedback as part of professional development.”
Defining your commitment to leadership. Consider these questions: What does it mean to be a leader? How do you want to be seen as a leader? What impression do you want to make? How willing to learn are you? Your answers to these questions can help you formulate a simple and succinct statement to guide your leadership development and stay committed as you face new situations, test and hone your skills, and stay focused over the long term.
Seeking diverse viewpoints. Michelle Wilcher, director of retail/north region for $1.2 billion DuPont Community Credit Union, Waynesboro, Va., says she has learned to move outside her “safe place of communication” to seek out the opinions and perspectives of people who hold different—or even directly opposing—views, rather than seeking to primarily “bounce ideas off of peers who I felt shared the same views.”
Fostering an environment of trust. Actively and continually soliciting assessments can help build trust with others, both directly and indirectly, as those who observe the solicitation see the openness and may extend more trust in their own interactions. An increased level of trust means a greater chance that others will be open and receptive to one’s intentions, future actions and feedback.
Building trust allows leaders to freely admit that they don’t have all the answers and to ask for feedback on their performance. Vulnerability in leadership “humanizes everyone,” suggests Amanda Cashatt, DuPont Community CU’s card services manager.
“It makes people more honest, more open, and more willing to receive feedback—and, ultimately, it makes all of us, regardless of our commitment, a little more bold, to ask questions or to push either up or down, to make a request of our boss to say, ‘I’m not getting what I need from you’ or ‘I need more help from you in this area,’” Cashatt says. “It gives us permission to push each other in a healthy way and develop each other, regardless of where each person falls in that hierarchy.”cues icon
Peter Myers, senior vice president of CUESolutions provider DDJ Myers Ltd., is a featured presenter in the CUES Webinar “Talent: Developing & Leveraging Your Most Valuable Asset.” Click here to watch the recording. To read about more examples of how credit unions’ mid-level leaders are creating an assessment-rich culture to increase performance, download the “The Missing Link in Strategic Execution: Developing Mid-Level Leaders” white paper in the CUES research library.