Being the company president rocks.
You get to make the strategic decisions and guide the company toward success.
You’re accountable to yourself (and your board).
You’re on the giving end of performance reviews—not the receiving end. You can judge your performance by the business’s financials. Revenues and profits are up, you’re doing great. Down, not so much.
Sounds great, right?
In many cases, it is. In some circumstances, it isn’t.
People grow by being self-reflective and by making adjustments to their behavioral patterns. For those who are open-minded, that self-reflection can be cathartic. For those who believe they are perfect, that self-reflection might not result in improvement. After all, they believe they are perfect, so there’s no need to change.
People also grow by receiving constructive feedback. When you have a great boss who can be honest and objective about your performance, as long as you’re open-minded about receiving that feedback, you can use that information to improve.
Problem is, when you’re the president, it’s often difficult to find those honest sources of constructive feedback. There are very few people, especially inside the organization, who are going to tell you, the president, that there are some flaws holding you back or hurting the organization.
The staff know. They see the president’s blemishes just as much as the president sees the staff’s blemishes. The problem is, very few if any people will say something resembling criticism to the president.
So when you’re the boss, where do you find that honest feedback loop?
The easiest way is to spin the honest feedback wheel and see where it lands. This could be a perfect solution for those who are thin skinned with narcissistic tendencies. No need to listen to anyone when a quick spin will tell you where to improve.
If you’re like Napoleon, the wheel might sound like a great idea.
If you don’t like the Napoleon wheel, then how about trying a different approach?
The Feedback Loop. The Three Questions.
Schedule your own personal one-on-one with those staff members whose opinions you value and trust.
Ask your staff member three questions. This should be done in a one-on-one meeting, of course. Don’t do this in a town hall meeting. Let the staff member know that you’re looking for ways to improve the way you manage the staff and company, and ask them the following:
- What am I doing that you would like me to do more of?
- What am I doing that you would like me to do less of?
- What am I not doing that you would like to see me start doing?
Listen carefully to their answers, especially to questions 2 and 3. When they provide some feedback, be open-minded, but then ask some probing questions which will hopefully elicit more constructive feedback. Show them that you’re listening by engaging in the conversation.
Don’t debate, even if you believe they’re wrong. Especially if one of the points of criticism is that you like to debate everything!
Take feverish notes. You’ll want to refer to these later.
Accept and thank the staff member for their honesty. Let them know that you heard them.
Schedule a follow-up meeting with the staff member a few weeks later to let them know what you’re doing to try to improve. Explain some circumstances where you caught yourself acting in manner X, but caught yourself because of their feedback, and changed direction mid-stream.
Doing the above will not only lead to a healthier more constructive relationship with your staff member but, more importantly, help you improve overall.
The Honest Self-Deprecating Feedback
So you don’t need to be self-deprecating, but you do need to demonstrate to your staff that you aren’t infallible. Let your staff know that you have done things or acted in ways in the past where you weren’t perfect.
Let’s say, for example, that you recognize that you did something that damaged a supplier relationship. Perhaps you acted irrationally. Hopefully, you learned from that. Have that conversation with your staff. Let them know that you understand you made some mistakes, but you made some adjustments to improve. Let them know that you got overly irritated during that encounter but that you’ve caught yourself acting in a similar manner subsequently and corrected yourself before it was potentially too late.
Having the above type of conversation will let your staff know that you aren’t infallible. It will demonstrate a human side which they need to see, and will hopefully strike up further conversation.
Pay for It
Hire an unbiased third party consultant.
But here’s the thing.
If you’re going to hire someone with the intention of looking for feedback, then listen to the feedback. Don’t criticize.
I’ve turned away three people in the last 45 days who have come to me for advice. They all called me looking to possibly hire me as a consultant.
I start with a 30- to 45-minute get-to-know-you phone call. Do I want to work with them? Do they want to work with me?
In the three cases, the individuals came to me looking for ways to improve or grow their business, and in all cases, I spotted some issues with their business approach and provided some early input. Do they listen? Are they open-minded?
If not, I don’t want to work with them. There’s nothing more frustrating than being hired as a consultant to help you improve, and then not being listened to as the consultant. It’s no wonder these individuals are having problems, and until they’re honest with themselves, they’re not going to fix their problem(s).
If you can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen.
So if you decide to hire a consultant looking for feedback, then listen. Just make sure there’s compatibility first.
It sounds corny, but it works.
Try asking the staff for a list of suggestions of things that you can do to improve the company. Ask them anonymously if possible.
Once you’re finished compiling the feedback, list all of the suggestions, and then let the staff know which of the suggestions you’re going to act on and which you’re not.
Open Your Door
Yes, literally and figuratively.
There’s nothing worse than a hermit president who sits in their coveted corner office with the door closed, not engaging with the staff.
Seek feedback, and let everyone know that you have an open door policy. Let everyone know that you want, and crave, feedback.
Act on the feedback.
Six months later, provide feedback, preferably in an open forum or town hall meeting.
Thank everyone for providing feedback, and let them know which you were successful in enacting and which you were not.
This will further enhance the trust loop and will encourage more feedback in the future, once everyone sees that you take this feedback seriously.
You’re Perfect, Now Change
Yes, I know you’re perfect. You landed on the “you’re perfect” wheel and there’s no need to change.
OK, listen up, Napoleon.
You won’t advance yourself, or your company, until you come to the realization that everyone can improve, and yes, that includes you. No matter who you are, there’s always room for improvement.
Until then, I love you, you’re “almost” perfect, now change.
By the way, for those that don’t know, the title of this post was inspired by a Broadway play titled: I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change.
Before you go, I think you might be interested in reading this post titled: Sell Me This Pen. I Tackle the Wolf of Wall Street Sales Riddle. Do You Know the Right Way to Sell the Pen?
Are you a younger entrepreneur? Here’s another interesting article I wrote:
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