People Are Talking About You

4 Oct

As many of you know, I administer anonymous and confidential 360 Feedback Surveys as part of my leadership coaching process. Although I may be working myself out of a job, I recommend this article by Ron Carucci, Forbes, Feb 11, 2019:  Leaders:  Here is How to Find Out What People Really Think About You. Following are excerpts that will whet your appetite to read the entire article:

Knowing how others experience you is fundamental to influencing effectively. You don’t need a formal 360 process to find out how others experience you. People are talking about you. You should get in on the conversation. Pay attention to, and act upon, all of the data you are already getting:

Ask for pushback.  Whether in meetings, or one on one, if you don’t have people routinely offering dissenting ideas or concerns about actions you take or have taken, you should worry. No news is not necessarily good news.  After meetings where particularly difficult/decisions issues are discussed, check in with a few team members: “How did that go and what could have been done differently? Effective leaders simply ask for feedback on a regular basis in more intimate settings where the conversation can enhance the relationship.  

Read cues and faces.  The greatest “mirror” reflecting how others experience you is the faces of those around you. They can provide a steady stream of useful feedback about how your words and actions are perceived. When people avoid eye-contact with you, when talkative colleagues become quiet, or when even-keeled colleagues get defensive, pay attention. While people may withhold verbal feedback, their faces and bodies will often tell a different story. Offer your observations with curiosity. When moods or countenance take a sudden shift, ask, “Tell me how I should interpret your silence,” or “You suddenly seem to not want to look directly at me. I’m concerned something I’ve said isn’t sitting well.”

Monitor how you narrate the story.  We are notoriously bad observers of our own reality.  We interpret how things are going in overly positive or negative ways. Pay attention to your inner voice. If that voice is working to convince you things are fine, or harshly criticizing you, step back and re-assess. If your voice leans too heavily in one direction, force yourself to consider what interpretations you could be missing to develop a more balanced perspective. And do a reality check in with a trusted advisor.

Know and permit others to name triggers.  We all have buttons that get pushed that can trigger unproductive behavior. We may react defensively when confronted with mistakes.  Or become sarcastic or passive-aggressive when we don’t get our way.  Or become impatient when things don’t move quickly enough.  Self-aware leaders know their triggers and let others name them in the moment. Great leaders also apologize when triggered, cleaning up emotional messes.