Want to know how to be a better leader? Here’s who to ask

by | Dec 11, 2020

“We’ve been working hard. I’d feel more motivated if you recognized the effort, not just the result.”

“Dan, get out of the weeds and give yourself permission to be CEO.”

“Dan, stop to smell the roses. Reflect on and celebrate the progress we’ve made before pushing ahead towards the next milestone.” 

Feedback CardsI was going through my desk this weekend and came across a stack of feedback cards from former teams. This stuff is gold.

I’ve made it a semi-regular practice to ask the people on my teams to give me feedback. And each quarter, I pick a few things to focus on tuning-up with their help.

As I was flipping back through these cards, a lightbulb went off…

Want to be a better leader? Ask the people you’re leading how!

 

Sometimes, the answer is right in front of you…

When it comes to big questions—like how to grow your leadership—sometimes, it turns out, the answer is right in front of you.

Sonic

We live in a world littered with leadership literature. 15 leadership hacks for this. 17 point leadership frameworks for that. There’s a new perspective on what drives leadership success around each corner.

(By the way, did I mention I just released a new leadership book? 🙂

But I’ve learned that sometimes, our quest to discover the next leadership growth frontier can cause us to miss the answers that are right in front of us. The diamonds in our backyard.

Case-in-point: Isn’t it logical that the best place to go to figure out how to better lead your people is… those people? 😉

A question for you: When was the last time you asked your people how you could be a better leader for them?

Been a while? That’s OK. If you want to raise your leadership game, no better time than the present. Here are two simple ways you can do this today.

 

Approach #1: Stop-Start-Continue

stop start continue

For a while now, I’ve used the Stop-Start-Continue prompt with teams in quarterly and annual planning. In the upcoming quarter/year, what do we need to start doing? Stop doing? Continue doing? You may have used this, too.

The same idea can be applied to soliciting feedback. Here’s what you’re going to do:

Sit down with each of your people. Start with 15 mins tops.

Tee-up the conversation.

“Hey Betty, here’s the deal: I’m going to ask you 3 simple questions. And cool thing is: you get to say anything you want… and I promise you I’m not going to get defensive. I want to be a better leader for you, and naturally, I need your help in figuring out how. Can I get your commitment to tell me exactly what you think?”

Betty will nod. And hopefully, if you’ve built up enough foundational trust & psychological safety with her to-date, Betty will follow-through.

“To be a better leader for you, and to get the best out of you… What’s one thing I should START doing? What’s one thing I should STOP doing? And what’s one thing I should CONTINUE doing?”

These questions are meant to open up a conversation. Don’t debate or defend, but seek to understand. And convey gratitude to Betty… leaders tend to get more of what we recognize and reward.

 

Approach #2: Keepers & Improvers

Haven’t yet built enough foundational trust for your people to shoot you straight in Approach #1?

KeepersHere’s another way to do this that might feel safer to your team.

Give each person on your team an everyday 3×5 notecard. Have them divide into 2 columns—Keepers & Improvers—like this.

Then, make the ask.

“Betty, I want to be a better leader for you, and I need your help. Mind sharing with me 2 things that are effective that you want me to keep (the “Keepers”)… and 2 things that I should consider doing differently or better to be more effective (the “Improvers”)?”

Have them write their thoughts and drop it in your mailbox. They can put their name on it, or leave it anonymous.

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