Feedback Can Avoid Disaster

The story of the Titanic is very well known for the many lessons it provides. One of those lessons is about feedback. As the story goes, multiple warnings regarding icebergs in the North Atlantic were issued but not passed along, not recognized as important, or considered non-urgent. The rest is history and well documented through articles, books and multiple movies. Information is feedback and flows all around continuously, even if we don't recognize it as feedback or are attuned to it.


Most CEOs or leaders are not facing an imminent crisis quite like the Titanic. Without information as a basis for improvement, many leaders solidify into fixed mindsets over years of work, often very successful work until the "iceberg" appears! Feedback can avoid a future disaster.


Are you getting the feedback you need to continue being effective as a leader and if not, what's the impact on your business or organization?


Leadership researchers Jack Zenger and Joe Folkman found that leaders who requested feedback the least (in the bottom 10%) were ranked at the 15th percentile in overall leadership effectiveness. On the other hand, leaders who requested feedback the most (among the top 10%) were ranked at the 86th percentile in leadership effectiveness. Folkman concluded

The best leaders… ask more people for feedback and they ask for feedback more often.

In How To Give The Most Effective Feedback, the Centre for Creative Leadership outline four types of feedback with one being most effective:

Impact feedback informs a person about the results of their behavior without dissecting the details, assuming motivation, or placing blame.

They also outline ten common mistakes in giving feedback yet I would suggest it's up to the person requesting feedback to be specific and curiously go deeper in seeking details as a feedback conversation takes place. Make it easy for the person providing feedback by asking open questions, listening carefully and seeking further details as necessary. Watch for subjective words like "mostly", "sometimes", "always" and ask for further details like when, where, how to gain a better understanding necessary to potentially change a behaviour.


In Ego Is the Enemy of Good Leadership, authors Hougaard and Carter suggest that the more senior position a leader holds, the more insulated they become resulting in susceptibility to a reduced field of vision and corrupting behaviour among other things. They go on to point out that a big ego instills a confirmation bias where one only looks for information because it confirms what they want to believe. Part of overcoming this ego problem is hiring people with the confidence to speak up. I would suggest increasing self-awareness and making a habit of actively seeking feedback are also part of the equation in overcoming ego as an enemy of good leadership.


There are two simple questions a CEO or leader can ask either informally in discussion with colleagues or staff or more formally in settings like team meetings:

  1. What am I doing effectively that you would like to see me do more of or more often?

  2. What am I doing that if I was doing less of it or stopped doing it would be helpful?

Feedback is powerful. As a Growth Coach, feedback is one of the most common topics I explore with leaders. Most leaders are simply not getting enough feedback through formal processes while others are fearful of asking others for feedback. Seek out those you trust and get started right away by asking these two simple questions. In a short five to ten minutes over a coffee you can discover insights that can change your life and career for the better. Of course, putting feedback into action is just as important. As we coaches like to say,

coaching without action is just a conversation

A conversation rarely leads to any change if no action is clearly specified and committed to. If necessary, find and work with a reputable coach who can help guide you in utilizing feedback specific to your circumstances.


Time for you and your leadership team to rethink your approach for improved success? Consider our Leadership Coaching or join one of our Growth Masterminds to get your growth started!


As an Agile Growth Coach & Certified Business Coach, I utilize my professional expertise every day to ensure clients I work with can successfully ask the right questions to find solutions right for their organization. Agile Work Solutions provides a proven, practicable and profitable path for companies, non-profits, and local governments who want to move beyond their current performance.


Jerome Dickey, MA, ACC, CPHR, Q.Med

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