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How Much Feedback Should Leaders Seek?

Leaders-and-feedbackI worked with a managing partner who sought the opinions of all 28 of the other partners of the firm before he made any small, medium and important decisions. The problem or the result I observed was that he took little action. He was so focused on seeking feedback that he failed to make decisions, even those small inconsequential ones. He was an elected leader who insisted on seeking consensus ad nauseam. It’s all I could do to hold myself back from making a Nike blast of, “JUST DO IT!”

I’ve since observed that leaders vary widely in how much and how often they seek feedback. I welcome your opinions about how much feedback you think is too little, enough or too much.

For the record, I am an outspoken proponent of seeking feedback for the medium and big decisions. Leaders, if they are truly leaders, must make the small decisions on their own. For me, that’s just part of the leadership duty. Leadership includes making decisions with or without feedback.

How does a leader know he/she has adequate feedback and must make a decision? Do the effective leaders just instinctively know? And why was it so difficult for my managing partner to know when to stop asking for feedback and start taking action? I think he was hard-wired to be a consensus builder yet the firm’s business was impaired because of his hard wiring.

Where is that sweet spot effective leaders reach when we have collected the appropriate quantity and quality of advice in order to keep our mission going smoothly, whether we are running a multinational corporation, a not-for-profit agency, boy scout troop or the U.S. government?

My theory is that it is different for each one of us.

Depending on our own hard wiring, we all have different thresholds for receiving and acting up on feedback.

I know that I might seek advice from one advisor and know with confidence their advice is all I need to move forward. That scenario happens often with every leader. The HUDDLE Sessions, offered through this website are brief, pop-up advisory sessions providing enough feedback to dramatically change lives. Quantity is not the issue, I know.

The graphic at the beginning of this article puts forward a theory and assumes that quantity and quality of Feedback are bundled together.

Each leader must know when they hit their own trip wire toward being ineffective, stuck, tyrannical or effective. Where is your tripwire? How do you know when you have received enough feedback to make necessary decisions?

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