Life is constantly giving you leadership feedback.
The Center for Creative Leadership has identified 67 discrete competencies, a subset of which can be used to profile a job and/or to determine degree of fit between a job and a candidate. Of those 67 competencies, one most highly correlates with executive success. It is Learning Agility.
Learning agility is the degree to which you are open to receive and learn from the feedback you get every day. Let’s face it. Life is always giving you feedback. You get on the scale in the morning and receive feedback. You might be getting feedback from other drivers on the highway. Your doctor, spouse, kids, bartender and priest are always giving you feedback.
Recently, I told you the story of John, the successful entrepreneur who gave up his “need” for his own plane when his team finally convinced him that his hobby was negatively impacting the bottom line. John was dense as a rock – life was giving him feedback he consistently ignored – until he decided to learn from it.
Are you even listening? When you get defensive, for example, you aren’t listening. Defensiveness shows up when we dismiss, minimize or rationalize the feedback we are receiving. I was riding in the car with my wonderful wife, Linda, and I was complaining about something. Being a truly helpful and gracious person, she began to offer a suggestion. I cut her off midsentence and explained why her idea wouldn’t work. This happened three times. Finally, she giggled and said, “You are completely uncoachable!”
What great feedback. But, I didn’t want to hear it. I could feel myself getting angry and beginning to marshal my argument to show her how wrong she was. But, listening to my own teaching, I chose to shift and ask myself how it might be true that I am uncoachable. Upon reflection, I could see how entrenched I can become on some issues and how committed I can be to being “right.” I learned a lot from her that day that has made me a better coach to business leaders and a better human being.
Every leader wants their organization to be a “learning culture.” You want your people to be curious, open to new ideas, eager to accept feedback, to learn and grow. As a leader, you should consistently be developing high performance teams in this way. You know the business landscape is always changing and you, your people and processes need to be evolving with them.
What you might not have yet accepted is “the speed of the leader, the speed of the team.” There is simply no way you can lead a learning organization and develop your team unless you, as the leader, are modeling openness, curiosity and learning.
There are three types of learning that are critically important in creating and sustaining a competitive advantage in executive leadership development.
- Knowledge. No one in today’s marketplace can rest on his/her laurels. The pace is simply too fast. Every employee must be challenged to assess their current skill level and to add to their toolbox on a regular basis. The C-suite needs to embrace the same challenge. Annual reviews should always include a list of skill development opportunities.
- Awareness. We are all vulnerable to being limited by what we don’t know we don’t know. Expanding awareness requires help from others who provide feedback on our blind spots and weaknesses. You simply can’t fix what you can’t see. Regular 360 assessments are powerful tools for expanding awareness. I tailor the 360 review process for the executive to ensure the maximum impact.
- Wisdom. Wisdom is about maturity, balance and perspective. Wisdom is the most neglected (and arguably most critical) learning for those in positions of leadership. Leaders are tasked with understanding the opportunities and threats in the world around them. Leaders must make decisions akin to betting the farm on positioning and strategy. While the necessity of leaders being wise is very high, it can be difficult for them to find mentors and those who will provide a balanced and unbiased sounding board. This is the role and responsibility of the executive coach.
Every effective leader must lead from the front. You must model what you expect from the people who report to you. Nothing is more encouraging to your employees than to see that you walk the talk. When you tell stories of the things you have learned and the ways you have grown in the past few months, everyone in your organization is motivated to follow suit.