A few years ago, I had a fascinating conversation with a client who had an unusual problem. His organization was hiring for an upcoming position and the internal candidate was confident, driven, and articulate during the interview process. However, when he asked her to explain different ways she’s handled “critical feedback,” she was silent. My client asked the same question in a different way and framed the query with how she’s handled “personal development opportunities.” Still no answer. He even used an example of something he had observed in their workplace interactions and it still didn’t induce an answer on her part.
He was puzzled, and I can see why. What’s the best practice, for a leader, on helping someone see their personal weaknesses and potential areas for development?
Here are some ideas of what may be happening when your team member can’t see their own shortcomings:
Lack of self-awareness. They don’t know themselves to receive feedback and how to process the information. A lack of self-awareness is actually quite common in leadership development. Self-awareness means understanding the strengths and weaknesses of the leader and the effect these have on others in different situations and contexts.
Poor listener. Even though my client asked the same question in different ways, it is possible that the woman didn't understand. In any dialogue, there are three conversations happening. The first is between the two participants, and the other two conversations are the ones that each participant is having with themselves. If the interior monologue has a “higher volume” than the verbal conversation, active listening is not happening. The conversation energy is going toward preparing what to say next when the other person stops talking.
Arrogance. It is common for the leadership literature to call this narcissism. Another common description is pride or being so self-absorbed that previous feedback rolled off her back. In this case, it seems like she heard the feedback, but rejected it.
Omniscience. A high level of knowledge is often seen as a positive quality in a leader, as knowledge and experience are valuable commodities. However, a leader who believes they are all knowing is on a slippery slope.
Lack of self-regard. Self-regard is an ability to be able to accept yourself for who you are. It is the appreciation for your positive attributes, and your perceived negative traits, while still feeling good about yourself. With my client’s interviewee, it’s possible her personal view of self was so low or distorted, that admitting fault would appear as weakness.
As leaders, it is vital we learn how to receive critical feedback and capitalize on personal growth opportunities. So, how are YOU doing on answering the question, “What is your personal development opportunity”?
Give this question full breadth and stretch yourself a bit? Get honest and ask, "What do I need to work on that will cause me to be a more effective leader?" Let me know what you find out about yourself and how I can encourage you on your journey.