Every once in awhile I read a newspaper article that I find genuinely profound. When that happens, it is typically an editorial from Tom Friedman, N.Y. Times columnist and Pulitzer Prize winner. I find he gets the right of a situation more often than not.
But, this time it was an article in the Cincinnati Enquirer (my hometown newspaper) that described the characteristics of the ‘ideal’ city council member. The list struck me, as a great description of the leadership skills required for anybody to real their full personal potential. These characteristics are very aligned with the ‘Success Criteria’ we used at Procter & Gamble to help guide leadership development. I have directly observed leaders like John Pepper, A.G. Lafley, and Bob McDonald consistently exhibit mastery in these areas. As you think about shaping your personal brand, evaluate your performance these characteristics. Improvement in any of these skills will help position you for even greater success.
7 Key Leadership Skills
- Grasps Complex Issues – shows diligence, does homework.
- Engages in Civil Debates – focuses on the challenges/opportunities and not personalities.
- Knows Execution is Key – follows through and gets things done.
- Values Two-Way Communication – listens, creates a real dialogue.
- Understands Collaboration – knows personal role and potential to provide benefit.
- Is Creative – open to new ideas, and seeing issues in a different way.
- Shows Courage – takes principled stances, sticks to commitments.
There are two ways I have used successfully to get a sense for personal mastery of the 7 key leadership skills. But, in order to get real value from either you need to be willing to embrace the feedback and make changes in your personal development plan to address shortfalls.
1:1 Interviews – If you have a network of trusted friends and mentors, then there is no better way to get feedback on your performance than to have a candid discussion. But, you need to be prepared to experience some tough love and not be defensive or argumentative. This approach is sometimes difficult for people to execute because they discount or rationalize the feedback. You need to suspend how you experienced the examples used by your friends to illustrate their feedback and focus instead on what they are actually trying to say to you. Giving genuine feedback is a gift, so embrace it as such. If you push back in the discussion, your network will simply shut down or quickly give you shallow feedback. In part, it is because they value your friendship personal shortcomings included.
Survey – If you don’t think you would do well getting feedback 1:1, you can turn to a simple survey to get a sense for your development opportunities. For each of the 7 characteristics ask three questions – 1) What score would you assign people you believe are among the best in this skill?, 2) What score would you assign my mastery of this skill?, 3) What examples can you share that illustrate where I exhibited this skill or had the opportunity and failed to exhibit this skill? I like using a 10-point Likert scale, because I feel it provides a broad enough range to capture real growth opportunities. I don’t think a 5-point scale does as good a job. You can use a free tool like SurveyMonkey to collect the data. It is important to only send the survey to people in your network who are in a position to give you actionable feedback.
However you collect the data, the most important step is what you choose to do with the data. Receiving it and ignoring the results are a complete waste of time. Opening both your mind and heart to the feedback, and then creating action steps to include in your personal development plan will help you achieve your full personal potential. You are the key (or barrier) to your own success.
4 More Resources For Self-Evaluation
Truly hearing and accepting feedback is hard work and pretty intimidating for most people. You need to remember the perspective of people you invite to give you personal feedback will be biased by their experiences with you and what they view is important. That’s why you want to seek data from a number of people rather than just one or two. Multiple ratings will produce a more accurate reflection of your true performance, and getting a diverse range of perspectives will give you a more complete picture of your strengths and opportunities for growth. In the end, it is not about what you hear, it is about what you do to improve yourself.
10 Quick Tips For Receiving Feedback
- Try to control your defensiveness.
- Listen to understand.
- Try to suspend judgment.
- Summarize and reflect on what you hear.
- Ask clarifying questions.
- Seek examples.
- Remember, that a person’s feedback is filtered by his or her own perceptions.
- Be genuinely open to receiving feedback.
- Check for the themes; don’t obsess over a single piece of feedback.
- What counts most is what you do with the feedback.
What Are Your Thoughts?
How well do you think the 7 characteristics capture the skills of a great leader? How do you believe you stack up against the list? Is it your self-reported assessment, or do you have broad based feedback informing your perspective? Do you have any tips on how to take productive action after receiving performance feedback?
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