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What Is It Like On The Other Side Of You?

What's It Like On The Other Side Of You?

This post is part 8 of My Leaders Lyceum Experience blog series. I'm writing in exchange for the opportunity to go through the multi-corporate program.
It's been eye-opening for me to work with business owners as a freelancer. It feels like the last three years I've got to feel what it's like to be on the other side of me (a business owner), and this includes both the good and negative dynamics. As a business owner, we have a tremendous amount of authority and control, and while we might mentally recognize how our words and actions affect people, we don't FEEL how it is to be those employees.
Working with several dozen business owners since I began freelancing three years ago, has given me an abundance of first-hand experience working under their direction. It's acted as a powerful mirror to help me experience how my actions truly impacted people when I owned and operated my marketing agency. 
This goes to show just how important it is to keep a pulse check of those around us. Ideally, we seek out feedback from people on a regular basis. This helps us be more considerate, compassionate and understanding with the people we lead. The Leaders Lyceum experience facilitates this dynamic by having us invite people in our life to share their feedback about us. It's called a three-sixty feedback survey. 
You get a front row seat to see how I fared inside the feedback ring, which was the prominent focus of day three in the multi-corporate development program. As day three progressed, Keith Eigel (co-founder of Leaders Lyceum) stated the following during our third session.
"When leading others, It's less about leveraging our strengths and more about managing our weaknesses."
I explored Strengths Finders 2.0 years ago as a way to better understand myself and how to leverage my strengths. While that book steers us away from spending too much time working on our weaknesses, this comment leads me to realize how our weaknesses can become self-sabotaging as we lead people towards a common mission. I've experienced this first hand and it's extremely frustrating to feel like we're in the way of our own success. Diving into the feedback of others creates a visceral way for us to embrace this reality and have the motivation to do something about. 

The Leaders360 Feedback Report

After a good amount of teaching, explaining, and setting our expectations for the feedback we were about to read, we finally received our spiral-bound notebook 360 report a few hours into day three. The goal of the report is to facilitate our personal development. In session one, we explore how we perceive ourselves, in session two we explored how our personality directs our behavior, and in this session, we dive into the feedback of those around us. While this feedback is helpful, we must add it as an ingredient to our personal development soup. On its own, it can be confusing or distracting, but when we marry it with the other pieces, it leads to fruitful growth.
I requested forty-two friends, family, clients, and people I work alongside to provide feedback for me. Out of that group, twenty-five spent the time and generously provided a response. I'm grateful for the people in my life that care enough to help me become a better leader.
The report has three primary sections. The first section is geared towards grading our competencies, and the second is focused on our risk behaviors and opportunities for improvement. The final section is an open area where people provided personal feedback prodded by two questions.

The First Report Section On Competencies

In the competencies section, there are ten areas we're graded on. The following list not only illuminates the how we're evaluated but also gives you a perspective on what it means to successfully lead, according to The Leaders Lyceum. This is how they define success and the vision of where they're driving students. Here are all ten competencies.
  • Handling Challenges: Effectively deals with challenging or conflictual situations.
  • Problem Solving: Makes decisions effectively and in an appropriate time frame; consults the right people and information.
  • Priorities: Manages time in a way that is effective and respectful to others.
  • Listening: Listens and responds in a way that makes others feel heard.
  • Communication: Expresses oneself with clarity, openness, and directness.
  • Growing Self: Seeks and listens to feedback from multiple sources to grow and increase self-awareness.
  • Growing Others: Facilitates the development of others through patience, celebration, and understanding.
  • Approachability: Is inviting and open, allowing ourself to be known.
  • Integrity: Is truthful, dependable, willing to admit mistakes, and is seen as trustworthy.
  • Other-Focuses: Is compassionate, empathetic, respectful, patient, and values differences in others.
In addition to these areas of competency, we're also asking people from different areas of our life to evaluate us. This provides a larger life sampling to ensure we truly get a 360-degree perspective. We can talk and act quite different based on our context and who we are with. Here's how the groups of people are segmented.
  • Self
  • Boss / Superiors (Since I freelance, I used clients for this category)
  • Peers
  • Direct Reports (I used team members of clients where I have some support or guiding role)
  • Family
  • Community
Going into this report, I expected a lower score from my family (3.93) and community (4.02), and justifiably so (It's an area I know needs work). So, while I got lower scores from them, I actually scored myself lower (3.92) than all groups. Team members (4.62) and my clients (4.48) scored me the highest. My overall average score across all competencies was 4.20 (4 is most of the time, and 5 is always. 3 is half the time, 2 is some of the time, and 1 is rarely).
The competencies I scored highest on average, was Other-Focused (4.53), followed by Listening (4.38) and Growing Others (4.21). There were no surprises for me or others when my these showed up as strengths for me. 
The three competencies where I had the most opportunity for growth were Communication (4.02), Priorities (4.05), and Problem Solving (4.08). I expected priorities to show up in this list, but I was a bit surprised on the other two since they're strengths I broadcast as part of my freelancing offering (I better figure out what is going on, haha!). While these did show up on the low end of the totem pole, they did score above 4, meaning I did them most of the time. While this means there is room for improvement, there is definitely no concern for alarm.
The deeper dive provides more helpful insight, but before we dive in I want to share a few out of pattern flags worth noting. While I scored lower on Problem Solving across the board, my family scored me high. They saw me as an effective decision maker. And, while I scored high on Growing Others across the board, my family scored me lowest. They didn't see me growing others as much as the other groups did. I scored myself lower on Growing Others because I'm aware of areas in my sphere of influence that I'm not doing this well, but want to.

My Top Competency Items

Within each of the ten areas of competency, there are four to six specific items where everyone provided feedback which tallies to a total of over fifty items. This visibility provided a much more helpful insight for me since I wanted the small details in this report that could truly help me grow. 
The following five items are where I shine the best:
  • Encourages Others To Be Themselves (Other-Focused, 4.70)
  • Is Respectful Of Others, Regardless Of Differences (Other-Focused, 4.67)
  • Recognizes & Values Differences In People (Other Focused, 4.67)
  • Is Open About Personal Beliefs & Values (Communication, 4.64)
  • Demonstrates Patience With Others (Other Focused, 4.54)
The following five items are where I have the most opportunity to grow:
  • Is Able To Express Feelings During Disagreements (Communication, 3.81)
  • Shifts Schedules To Accommodate New Priorities (Priorities, 3.84)
  • Openly Shares Information & Keeps People Updated (Communication, 3.88)
  • Communicates In A Concise & Straightforward Manner (Communication, 3.88)
  • Consults The Right People Before Making Critical Decisions (Problem Solving, 3.89)

When I first saw these two lists, I had mixed feelings about them. It took me some time, but I had to appropriately apply them to different areas of my life where they were most applicable. In some cases, they weren't and that's okay. Again, the goal of this report is to provide an additional perspective in the larger picture.

Report Section Number Two, Risk & Opportunity

Risk Behaviors can negatively impact our effectiveness as a leader so the goal is to root these out entirely from our lives. The way these indicators are calculated is based on our scores compared to past students in the leadership program.  If we're on the lower end of the spectrum, compared to these other students, the report flags them as something to notice. 
There were two areas that require my attention. Sometimes (1.95), have a hard time suspending my own agenda to coordinate with others. The goal here would be to rarely (1.0) have a hard time. Those that always (5.0) have a hard time have serious work to do. Also, sometimes (1.67) I don't admit my own mistakes. Again, the goal here is that I rarely NOT admit my mistakes. 
On the flipside, the two areas of growth opportunity where I scored between half the time and most of the time were extraordinary self-awareness (3.25) and being thought of as having great wisdom (3.59). These are the two areas of opportunity that I have to develop as a leader. This initiative in writing is actually a great process for me to take advantage of these two growth opportunities. Where I'm succeeding, compared to the historical class, is in the area of being motivated by being true to my values. In fact, I'm in the top twenty percent.

The Final Section Of The Report

As I mentioned above, the final section of the report is where people write their own personal feedback on both our strengths and areas of improvement. 
Here are several of the comments that stuck out and felt the most relevant to my personal growth on the strengths side.
  • ...follows through on his words which is both appreciated and admired....[he] takes on tasks with eagerness and remains steady during stressful times...He's the most reassuring and professional person I've ever worked with.
  • He seeks first to understand and listens well.
  • Seeing the heart of the matter. Seeing the intentions, motivations, and heart of a person. Wanting others to succeed.
  • Always asking how we can make things better.
  • Leads groups of people well.
  • His ability to make all people feel valued and loved no matter how they differ from him.
  • He is genuine and looks people in the eye!
  • Bringing people together and making them feel valued and heard.
  • It impresses me how good he is at putting together sentences and paragraphs that are easy to understand but still have a more "formal" feel to them.
  • His ability to handle complex projects
Here were some of the highlighted areas I can improve on, and also resonate with me.
  • Apply more intentionality with his advisory practice.
  • Jason can go from heroic to submissive... and should stick to his guns and politely (but firmly) offer feedback, insight and, guidance.
  • Provide clear and effective communication of instructions and expectations.
  • He could work on his ability to be both compassionate and unaffected at the same time, not wear other people's burdens.
  • Steers conversations away from situations where he deals with specifics of his own emotions and behaviors...getting deep into the personal here and now.
Since reading this for the first time, I've been more aware of these strengths and weaknesses and have leaned in to changing my words and behavior to better lead myself and those around me.

Meeting With Those Who Gave Their Feedback

While we spent most of the day reviewing our reports, discussing them as a larger group, and diving in deeper with our cross-mentoring groups, our mission at the end of the day was to meet with the people we invited to provide their feedback. Because the feedback is anonymized, we don't know the context or intentions behind why everyone gave the feedback they did. So to help us better understand this feedback we were directed to meet, listen and ask questions from the evaluators.
So far, I've met with seven of my evaluators, including my wife. I received additional feedback in a variety of areas. Here are a few tidbits that I wrote down and remember. 
  • I'm a visionary with an innate direction.
  • I execute on this vision, although I've not always been this way.
  • I'm able to communicate concisely and connect vision with practical application.
  • I have sober judgment.
  • At times, can hold an arm's length emotional distance.
  • I need to make more of an effort to truly hear others and instead of concluding, dive deeper and ask more questions.
  • Part of what drives me to be such a great listener is my own desire to be heard and known.
  • Learn to embrace the un-reconcilable and handling complex challenges more gracefully.
  • I desire two-way relationships where both people are giving and receiving.
Going through the process of sharing this with people was both exciting and emotional. In fact, with one friend the discussion hit a nerve as I broke down in tears. I also witnessed how it fostered stronger relational dynamics with friends, better relationships with colleagues and growth for not just me, but those I was sharing my feedback with.
Meeting my evaluators was a neat and inspiring exercise. This process has fostered the development of that extraordinary self-awareness that needs work in my life :-) The fourth session of the program is geared towards letting go of all the things in life that don't matter and holding onto what does. You can explore this vision oriented topic in my next post about this journey.

Photo by Nine Köpfer on Unsplash
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