Honest feedback for business owners
As a business owner do you hold yourself accountable for your own personal growth, development and behaviour?
I read an interesting article from McKinsey Quarterly that explored the following: “As executives become more senior they are less likely to receive constructive performance and strategic feedback.”
If that is a trend for senior executives, how about business owners?
Are you investing in your development and if not what’s the cost to you and your business?
Not long after I read the article I received an email from a senior executive who worked for a successful SME.
He was questioning whether or not to leave the company he worked for because he felt his employers were undermining him by making decisions about his department without consulting him.
The company founders sold him a vision of growth that he would be a key part of but they operated as a tight unit, regularly actioning decisions regarding his team without consulting him, which led to mistrust, upset (feeling undermined) and ultimately his resignation. When given feedback by the executive they were dismissive and defensive.
The leaders of this business missed an opportunity to gain input into their ways of operating and behaving that could have resulted in beneficial growth, both personal and business.
Business owners and senior leaders risk becoming isolated from the day-to-day business and from obtaining honest, beneficial feedback.
It’s usual to invest in mentors and coaches but less usual to obtain feedback from those who observe us every day.
In his article for McKinsey Quarterly Kaplan suggests that senior executives put procedures in place to ensure that they don’t become isolated and recommends the following for obtaining valuable feedback:
- Cultivate a network of junior coaches. The tendency is to find coaches and mentors who are more senior and Kaplan suggests to also seek out coaching from your subordinates, from those who observe your behaviour. Not for the faint-hearted this one and for the courageous you will (with time and trust) get honest feedback on how you operate, and you may be surprised by the innovation and creativity that comes with the process. The benefits will far outweigh the discomfort.
- The clean sheet exercise. Create a task force of senior, mid and junior level executives. The CEO that Kaplan discusses in the article challenged this team to address these questions: “If you had to start this enterprise from scratch today are these the markets we would serve? Are these the products we would offer? Are these the people we would hire? Is this the way we would organise, pay and promote our people? What changes do we need to make, given our distinctive competencies and strategic aspirations?”
Kaplan wrote that: “The CEO gave the task force six weeks to complete the assignment (in addition to their day jobs) and impressed upon them that there should be no sacred cows and that they should not worry about being politically correct in their findings. He also explained that while he might not adopt all of their proposals he wanted to hear each of their recommendations and ideas.”
The above approach worked well for this CEO and for the direction of his business. By having the courage and taking the time to invest in a similar process the company in the scenario above could have:
- Experienced a higher retention of staff.
- Experienced higher engagement levels of staff, resulting in improved performance, creativity and innovation.
- Benefitted from understanding the impact that they had as business leaders on their business.
- Gained valuable time as their team members took on more responsibility and accountability within the business.
How may you and your business benefit from adopting a similar approach?
Pollyanna Lenkic is the founder of Perspectives Coaching, an Australian based coaching and training company. In 1990 she co-founded a specialist IT recruitment consultancy in London, which grew to employ 18 people and turnover £11 million ($27 million). In this blog Pollyanna answers questions from our readers on issues they are experiencing leading or being part of a team. She offers insights on teams and team dynamics. For support and information on team days run by Perspectives Coaching see here. Her previous Blog for SmartCompany, 2nd Time Around was about the mistakes she made and the lessons she learned building a business the first time round and how to do it better second time round.