How many of you have participated in a 360 degree feedback process at work? For leaders, receiving feedback from colleagues feels like report-card day! If you think about it, it is surely a report card of behavior perception i.e. how colleagues perceive their behavior and what conclusions they draw from that (as is evident in the verbatim comments that form a part of such reports). It is very interesting to observe how people respond to feedback that they get and I must say I have really seen it all - from gratitude and enthusiasm, to surprise and shock; from calm and knowing acceptance to utter disbelief and rejection.
THE DREADED RATING SCALE
The design of such instruments is very telling...there are a set of behavior statements and a set of options from which one has to tick the appropriate one e.g.: A statement like "listens patiently to others' ideas" can be rated as Never, Rarely, Sometimes, Usually or Always. Needless to say, most people rate themselves as Always (5/5) while their colleagues rate them as "Sometimes" or "Usually"..much to their surprise and chagrin.
ALWAYS: THE HALLMARK OF LEADERSHIP
On a recent such assignment, I debriefed about 25-30 people on their feedback reports...and I soon realized that there was magic hidden in the word "Always". It set my mind in motion and I reflected back to the leaders that I have personally witnessed/ worked with in my career.
It became clear to me that whatever a leader "Always" did, became the "Hallmark" of his Brand of Leadership. For example:
Mr. S was such a time stickler that he "always" insisted on adherence to schedule...Soon his team members knew that if his time was blocked then punctuality was key. I remember once people arrived 50 minutes late for a 60 minute meeting. He spent the remaining 10 minutes with them and that was that!
Mr. B "always" greeted visitors with a smile, asked them about their family, offered a cup of tea/coffee and made them feel comfortable. He even ensured that there was no sun in the face, by pulling down the blinds himself, if need be. Only then he got down to discussing the business matter at hand. He was known for Warmth- for being a thorough gentleman, "always"
IS "ALWAYS" ALWAYS POSSIBLE?
Most organizations have an in-house model of leadership competencies i.e. they have a long list of behaviors which leaders in the company are expected to demonstrate. Funnily enough, the underlying assumption is that every Leader must score an "Always" on ALL desirable "Leadership Behaviors." Is that really possible? Obviously, such an assumption is really not founded in realism of any kind! This is hardly a Class XII board exam where a score of aggregate 95% + seems to have 1000s of claimants. Human behavior is a different ball-game!
Haven't we all seen Leaders who are very competent at, say, driving initiatives, but not so good in future planning, or colleagues who are excellent at client relationships but maybe not in peer relationships? The more I work with leaders; one thing becomes crystal clear to me - that each leader has his Hallmark, his Brand which is created by consistently demonstrating a certain set of behaviors in multiple interactions with multiple people. By corollary, there are also many things that the same leader will never be able to get an “Always” rating for. And that’s OK.
WHAT IS YOUR HALLMARK STYLE?
Ultimately the key to Success and Excellence for you as a leader is really to pick a few actions/ behaviors that drive your team to be motivated, engaged and performance oriented and then consistently demonstrate that behavior, day in and day out ..like a signature style! On those critical behaviors, you can claim an "Always" blindfolded and soon you will be dancing your way up the business and happiness graphs.
Easier said than done, of course! How you go about building your Signature Style is another article for another day... but the starting point is to look at yourself dispassionately and identify those desirable leadership behaviors that you are automatically drawn to…where moving from a "Usually" to an "Always" seems like no effort at all. As with most things to do with self development, self awareness is the first baby step!