Most organizations have some sort of performance feedback mechanisms. While we all try to be grown-ups and accept “constructive criticism”, it is a natural human tendency to embrace the feedback which is consistent with our own beliefs, and discard that which does not match. Or we rationalize it away, thinking “Oh, he’s just jealous of me”, or “She’s got an attitude problem herself!!”
Try to see performance feedback as market research, and consider yourself a product which must be positioned and marketed to its demographic. This is emotionally hard to do, but if you can master it, you will grow and distinguish yourself as a leader. The feedback might be dead wrong (from your standpoint) but it is what it is, and someone feels that way.
Ask how there could be such a gap between what you WANT to be doing, and what others PERCEIVE you are doing. Ask how you can adjust your behavior so that others experience your true intentions. In any case, ignoring it will not make it go away.
REAL LIFE EXAMPLE:
Joaquin F. had trouble at his new company. He had been hired into his first real management position, on the basis of a stellar track record of delivering results. Although he was a high-flier with great potential, something was just not clicking in the new environment. The boss saw that Joaquin was headed into disaster with his abrupt, even abrasive style.
The boss asked a Leadership Coach to work with Joaquin. The coach gathered 360-degree feedback which revealed serious discrepancies between Joaquin’s intentions and the external perceptions of his behavior. When he was trying to be efficient in his communications, most saw him as dictatorial. When he was trying to be innovative and share his own great vision, many saw him as a steamroller.
Joaquin’s initial reaction was that these people were jealous and threatened by his high potential– therefore, he should disregard their input.
Joaquin’s coach helped him to face up to one harsh reality:
You’re Not a Leader if No One is Following You.
Joaquin had to learn to adapt to the particular culture of this new organization, and to speak the language of this strange civilization. It hurt A LOT to get that feedback, and yet addressing it openly and honestly was the best thing to ever happen in his career. It was tough, but key to his growth, for Joaquin to accept that perception matters. After his initial defensiveness about “those jealous losers” who had given that feedback, Joaquin got
real and worked hard on getting his behaviors to match his intentions. Mentors, feedback buddies, and ongoing coaching turned it around into a positive cultural assimilation.
Joaquin is still the same smart, motivated, and talented professional that he was on the day he joined this company. And now that he speaks their language, everyone else knows so, too!