Provide honest feedback to help employees, friends strive to get better
As Wall Street has unraveled, I’m more convinced than ever that focusing on behavior needs to be the foundation of every organization and at the top of every leader’s list. Because if creating an environment where employees feel valued, respected and part of something special is secondary to winning at all cost — as the financial pages reflect — greed will poison the well, be it a company, a team, or an industry.
While many of the examples that I use come from the business world, the tenets, obstacles, and truths that I have detailed in the columns and in the book, “10 Truths About Leadership … It’s Not Just About Winning,” apply to every facet of life. These principles carry value, from being a boss, to being a coach, to being a parent, to being a friend.
It’s that value that brings us to our next step: “Sharing Honest Feedback.” If you’ve become effective at recruiting talented performers, providing them the tools to do their job and defining expectations, what’s next is sharing with them honest feedback.
Feedback from a traditional point of view allows us to work diligently at getting better every day. It cannot be done alone. It requires constant feedback.
As I mentioned in a previous column, being in the right circumstance is a requisite for growth. We must all seek out honest and meaningful feedback in order to grow personally and professionally. And, by the way, establishing a conduit is not someone else’s responsibility. Make it your priority. Remember, when we stop getting better, we stop being good.
But beyond traditional feedback, what were those habits that were ingrained in our top performers? What qualities did all of these top performers have in common? Was it attitude, concentration, desire, integrity, motivation, persistence, responsibility, vision, wisdom, passion? The answer was always yes. But, I knew it had to be more.
And then one day I read this line from William Ian Graves: “Winners do things that they don’t like to do, and average people only follow their natural likes and preferences.” And I said, “wow, I just got it.”
Think about it, have you ever accomplished anything of significance in your life with out being out of your comfort zone? The answer is absolutely not. Most people fall into the “average” category because they only do what they like to do. Said another way, top performers have established the habit of doing things they don’t necessarily like to do because they recognize that it’s an absolute requirement to accomplish their goals.
All of us have learned from past experiences that here’s a very real difference between great and insignificant. We all have been there when our overwhelming desire for success took us over the top, and likewise, when we perhaps backed down from that last step needed to achieve something special and felt the sting of falling short when we know success was within our reach.
I’m convinced the reason “doing things we don’t like to do,” doesn’t become ingrained in us is because it’s not part of our everyday lives. Until we have established the habit of discipline, we will continue to suffer the fate of wanting but not having.
Truth No. 6 says, “Greatness is achieved by those who have established the habits of discipline and risk taking.”
The other half of what I believe defines greatness is establishing the habit of risk taking and not being afraid to fail. I’m convinced the greatest tragedy in someone’s life is the last five words out of their mouth, “I wish I would have.” I empathize with people who feel trapped in this malaise. It almost became my undoing. My obsession with winning almost destroyed me. As I’ve reflected on those trying times over the years, I wondered if the problem was my obsession with winning or was I afraid to fail?
What I learned from the experience is that whatever good or bad fortune may come out of a circumstance, we can always give it meaning and purpose. There is a big difference between what’s lost by not trying and what’s lost by not succeeding. I’ve witnessed that truth many times in my life. I’ve seen it as a coach, an official, a sales manager, a CEO, a friend, a teacher, a board chair, and on and on.
We must recognize that failure is a natural consequence of trying. Great leaders, great salespeople and great athletes all have an incredibly high tolerance for failure because they recognize it provides them with their greatest feedback loop. To gain a positive lesson from failure, you must own the loss. You’ve got to fail in a learning posture. It only becomes valuable when it’s treated as a measure of strength. Failure is our teacher, regret is our enemy.
So what are the qualities that separate the best from the rest? In the end, I believe it is about discipline and risk-taking. We must seek feedback as we incorporate these lessons into new and improved behaviors. Remember, there can be no failure to a man or woman who has not lost his or her courage, character, self-respect, or self-confidence.
Pete Luongo is retired president and CEO of The Berry Co., Leader, Lecturer, Public Speaker and Author of “10 Truths About Leadership … It’s Not Just About Winning”. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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