“Congratulations, Bill,” I said as I
began the performance review.
“You’ve done an outstanding job
in leading this project. You’ve met every goal
and delivered one of the finest examples of
leadership I’ve ever seen.”
“Thank you,” Bill said, smiling. “I appreciate this recognition, and I’m glad that we
He paused for a moment, and then opened
his notebook, saying, “I’d like to review every
point in the project where I struggled or
failed in my leadership, so that I can be sure
I’ve learned all that I can. Will you help me?”
It was a remarkable response but not surprising from an individual who has long been a
top performer and growing leader on my team.
Can you imagine actually asking your boss
to review your mistakes? While some people
will spend tremendous energy avoiding mistakes and even hiding them when they happen, wise leaders know that mistakes are
inevitable and will use them as opportunities to improve. The difference is in
how they seek and apply feedback.
Think about the last major project you
managed at home or at work. When the
project was over, did you go back and
ask the people involved to help you
learn where you could improve? Or
were you satisfied with simply achieving the result?
If it’s the latter, you may go on to achieve
similar results in the future, but you’ve
missed a real opportunity for growth one
that could ultimately limit your success.
In the end, your true growth as a leader
will not be based on what you achieve; it
will be based on what you learn. If you
want to succeed at higher and higher levels,
here are three ways to seek and apply the
feedback you need to help you grow.
Change your mindset about feedback. I
still cringe when someone says, “Would you
like some feedback?” because this question
is seldom followed by a compliment. But
over the years, I’ve learned so much from
this type of advice that today I can easily
accept the offer.
If you’re resistant to feedback, start by imagining that the person is really saying, “I’d like
to help you become a better leader and have
even greater career success. Will you let me?”
Mentally reframing the individual’s offer in
this way will instantly lower your defenses.
Make it easy for others to help you. Not
everyone will have the courage to offer his or
her feedback directly, particularly if what he
or she has to say is difficult. And yet, this type
of feedback will often be the most valuable.
Years ago, I was hired to lead a very troubled
team on which there existed many issues and
little trust in leadership. My first act was to put
a small suggestion box in the break room with
the promise that I would publicly answer any
comments or questions placed there. The
next morning, the box was overflowing. Many
of the questions were difficult, but by continuing to answer them in the days and weeks
that followed, I learned what I needed to successfully lead that team for several years.
Create a way for others to offer feedback
within the safety of anonymity, and you will
receive the candid and direct advice you
need to hear.
Really apply what you’ve learned. No
matter what methods you use to seek feedback, people will stop offering it if you never
apply it to your actions. Of course, not all of
the advice you receive will be correct, and
you must always be discerning about both
the content and the source. But if you continue to make the same mistakes over and
over again despite the attempts of others to
help you, they will eventually give up.
Begin to keep track of the changes you’re
making as a result of feedback. This log will
show whether you’re applying what you’ve
learned and, over the years, can also become
a valuable journal of personal growth.
An airplane in flight relies on navigational
feedback and constant adjustments to finally
reach its destination. In the same way, feedback on where you can grow is the homing
signal that keeps your career and your life on
Use feedback to fuel your growth to
become the leader and the person you
want to be.
JIM HULING is CEO of MATRIX Resources Inc., an IT services
company that has achieved industry-leading financial growth while
receiving numerous national, regional and local awards for its values-based culture and other work-life balance programs. The company was recently named one of the 25 Best Small Companies to
Work for in America for the third year in a row by the Great Place to
Work Institute and the Society for Human Resource Management.
Huling is also the author of “Choose Your Life!” a powerful,
proven method for creating the life you want. Reach him at