Seeking feedback immediately after a performance is never easy for even the most seasoned leaders and performers. But you never know what people are thinking unless you ask them. Dodging this feedback by presuming others would tell you if there was something you needed to know means missing valuable information that could make you better. The best leaders push through the discomfort and ask others how they did after each and every performance.
In her best-selling book about women in the workplace, Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg recounts the time she was interviewed by legendary broadcaster Tom Brokaw. Because she thought her performance in the interview was below her standards, she asked Brokaw for feedback. Brokaw was stunned. He told her that, in a lifetime of interviews, she was only the second person to ask him for feedback. How can this be? Is feedback so scary that only the most self-secure and humble leaders ask for it?
The relationship between leaders who ask for feedback and leadership effectiveness is extraordinarily high. Requesting feedback may be the single most important thing a leader can do to improve their performance and gain the trust of their followers. Not only does asking for feedback increase mutual respect, it creates a forum for true dialogue, one where leaders can learn how others see them and make sense of their choices.
For leaders with an intense desire to improve and a commitment to a growth mindset, asking for feedback after a performance is the critical pathway to learning. Given the essential role leaders play on a team, leaders actually need the most feedback, but they rarely get it. We don’t give feedback to leaders unless they ask for it. Even then, we are suspicious that the request is genuine! We’ve rarely seen this before.
Imagine a leader with enough self-confidence and the wherewithal to ask others for feedback. Asking for feedback is a leadership act and one that others reward with ideas, insight, and loyalty. Stand out from the leadership pack and try it. “How can I do better?” is a natural question for the best among us to ask after any performance. Time to join the club.