Start with a good breakfast…

“Critical feedback is the breakfast of champions. Defensiveness is the dinner of losers.”

Dharmesh Shah

Why are people defensive? Is it because they don’t want to be wrong? Perhaps their own identity or self-worth is so wrapped up in something that anything that doesn’t align with their thinking is taken as a personal indictment? Regardless of why anyone might be defensive it is easy to see that there is very little positive that can come from a defensive mindset.

The best athletes are always looking for critical feedback in order to improve their game. They watch film, they solicit input from trusted coaches, they look for ways to remove flaws from their performance in order to get better. You can’t do that if you have a defensive mindset. You can’t be focused on growing and improving if you aren’t willing to see flaws as opportunities.

Some of the most impactful feedback I have ever received has come at times and places in life that it would have been easy for me to say “I don’t care what you say or think, this is who I am. I am right…” If I had taken that approach I would have missed the opportunity to learn, grow and improve. I wouldn’t have seen the “flaws in my game” and then found ways to address those flaws and hopefully improve my performance. Self-improvement is a continual and ongoing process and I know I have many more opportunities to get better by seeking out candid and critical feedback.

Breakfast is the most important meal of the day. Make sure that you start with a good one by embracing any critical feedback offered.

Embrace criticism…

“The trouble with most of us is that we would rather be ruined by praise than saved by criticism.”

Norman Vincent Peale

I don’t often repeat quotes within a relatively recent time period (after sending a quote for over 20 years there is bound to be some repetition…) but I was reminded of this quote after a conversation with a colleague yesterday.

“Criticism” carries with it a negative connotation in our language. The dictionary defines it as “the act of passing severe judgment; censure; faultfinding.”  But I prefer to think of it differently, as positive and enhancing, not negative. If you don’t get real feedback how can you ever improve and grow?

If you play baseball and all you hear is praise you are never going to reach your full potential. If you hit a home run everyone will clap and cheer and that is great. But if you start dropping your back shoulder, and no one tells you, you won’t be hitting home runs for long.

Embrace the feedback, any feedback, regardless of the intent of the person providing it. The key for the receiver is to ensure that we have the intent to use it to grow and get better.

If you are interested here is the blog post from the last time I used this quote.

Listening is power…

“Leaders who refuse to listen, will eventually be surrounded by people who have nothing helpful to say”

Andy Stanley

I once heard someone say that if you want to be a more effective leader you have to be more interested, than interesting.  This was followed with with what I believe is some of the best advice I have ever received.  That as a leader, in order for you to really be effective, that the number of questions you ask must outweigh the number of statements that you make. This has always been incredibly convicting for me and is something that I continually work on improving.  

The dangers of talking more than listening seem obvious, but why do so few people actually practice the true art of listening?  Is it because they like the sound of their own voice?  That they believe what they have to say is the most important thing?  Or perhaps, they just don’t understand that the best way to impact and influence others comes through listening and seeking first to to understand BEFORE being understood.  

If you aren’t really listening, then as Andy says, you’ll soon find yourself surrounded by people who only tell you what you want to hear….  

I have met the enemy…

“Incompetent leaders spend too much time evaluating others and not enough evaluating their own leadership.”

Unknown

Well snap. And I don’t mean in a “snap, crackle, pop” rice krispies kind of way either. Yes, I fully recognize that I am not demographically qualified to use the term “snap.” I validate that by knowing that Snap, Crackle and Pop are the names of the gnomic elves that pitched Rice Krispies for decades. Don’t believe me?  Check this out. Hmm, now I’m not sure where to go from here. Oh yes, incompetent leaders…

snap crackle popPerhaps real leadership only exists when self leadership is there first? How much easier is it to say “it was their fault” or “they are a horrible leader” than it is to ask the question “how can I improve my leadership?” If it is their fault then I have nothing to worry about right?  WRONG.  I speak from experience.  If I “snap” and excuse it because “they” did it, deserved it, or earned it, then then I’m an incompetent leader.  Period. Thank goodness leadership growth is a journey.  Leave the snap for the cereal.

Right between the eyes…

“No matter how good you think you are as a leader, my goodness, the people around you will have all kinds of ideas for how you can get better. So for me, the most fundamental thing about leadership is to have the humility to continue to get feedback and to try to get better – because your job is to try to help everybody else get better.” 

Jim Yong Kim

Someone once told me that as soon as soon as you profess “I am humble” you have ceased to be so in any way.  Humility is hard.  We all want to be good.  Heck with that, we want to be great!  But what does it mean to be great?  Is it all about doing it for me?  For I?  For the ego?  The self?  The pursuit of selfish endeavors or selfish gains?  That is the opposite of humility!  For me humility is the recognition that I still yet have a lot to learn.  That I will always have more to learn and that everyone can teach me something.

My Dad (who by the way is one of the greatest influences in my life from both a leadership and human character perspective) taught me when I was very young that the value of a person wasn’t measured in the car that they drove or the clothes that they wore.  Instead, the value of another man was measured entirely in how they treated other people.  Interesting right?!  The value of a human being measured not in what they have, but in what they give.  Respect.  Honor.  Dignity.  Compassion.  Service.  These are just some of the gifts that the greats give, regardless of the size of their bank account or their station in life.

So, for today’s quote this is one lesson that I hope I never forget.  Ask for feedback.  LISTEN to the response.  Get better.  Period.  The day you think you have arrived your journey has ended.  Leadership is learning and growing.  I am a better leader today than I was one year ago and I hope that what I am today is a pale shadow compared to what I have become a year from now based on really listening, learning, and growing.

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