December 27

Unlocking Leadership Potential – the Power of Assessment Feedback

You may be wondering what to do differently next year. You already know leadership matters and want to become a better leader. Should you register for a leadership workshop, listen to a new podcast on leadership, or read one of the latest books on what great leaders do? All good questions!

I would love to share a story about when I was wondering the same things. At the end of my third year as an officer of a large nonprofit, I was experiencing a lot of frustration and not making the progress I wanted to make. Things were more complicated than I thought they would be, and I was running into many more obstacles to improving the culture. My organization at the time was a 300+ person healthcare nonprofit with so much potential.

I was hired to create changes and improve our human resource processes as the Chief Administrative Officer (CAO). The things I assessed needed to be changed were no-brainers, but my peers didn’t always agree. They often agreed in our meetings and then didn’t support changes after the meeting. One peer, in particular, was quite good at persuading the CEO that my ideas (wellness programs, compensation system changes, employee training & development programs, employee engagement surveys, etc.) were not a good idea because we didn’t have the money for it, or it wouldn’t work or just wasn’t a priority. It wasn’t like we had financial problems – we were successful and growing.

I thought the main cause of our cultural issues (high employee turnover and low engagement scores from a lack of trust in senior management) was due to a dysfunctional and ineffective executive leadership team. I didn’t think I had much to do with that because I was a good leader. My direct team seemed to be improving, and my relationships from coaching my people were strong – people enjoyed working for me. I could tell my direct teams were following me, but I didn’t have evidence that I was a good leader outside of those teams.

When it came to my peers, I was starting to question whether I was a good leader. I was not getting any feedback from my CEO until one day; he gave me some feedback I didn’t know what to do with. His vague feedback didn’t have examples. It felt like he was saying something someone else told him, and he couldn’t back it up with facts or examples. I don’t think I was experiencing imposter syndrome, but I was baffled and in turmoil. Nothing made sense.

I didn’t want to ignore my responsibility to be the best leader I could be, and if it were my fault that things were not getting better and, therefore, I needed to change, then I would accept that. But I didn’t want to take responsibility for something that was a much larger issue than just my behavior. I had no idea how to discern the problem.

How do you determine if you have a blind spot and you are the problem? What is the truth?

I found several assessments that assess leadership effectiveness. I thought that would be an excellent way to determine if I had a problem. I was especially interested in an assessment comparing me to leaders outside my company. I wanted to know how good I was and what I could do differently to become a great leader.

Have you ever wondered the same thing? Emotionally, I was desperate to know the truth. What I heard from my boss didn’t add up. How could it be that the changes I was recommending to solve low engagement, high turnover, and rapidly growing healthcare costs be negative?

I didn’t want to get an assessment that would provide fluffy, vague responses to make me feel better. My peers knocked me down, and the CEO wasn’t doing anything to support or defend me. I was beginning to think maybe I thought too highly of my ability.

One assessment company caught my eye; based in Utah whose founders had written a book called The Extraordinary Leader. I got the book and read it rapidly. What a great book! I was so inspired by the data the company presented about extraordinary leaders. The founders and a team of researchers had spent two years researching and developing an assessment that was indeed a breakthrough assessment. Nothing like it had been created before because they utilized the competencies from multiple tools and applied their research to over 22,000 leaders.

Their assessment is called The Extraordinary Leader assessment! It gives a truly accurate and data-driven view of leadership effectiveness. Today, over 125,000 global leaders are in their database. One of the most important aspects of a great assessment tool is who you are compared to; some assessments don’t provide comparative data. The assessment provided statistically relevant evidence about 19 things that differentiate a great leader from a good and a poor leader. If you don’t know what differentiates extraordinary performance from average performance, you may develop something that has little significance in how others view your leadership effectiveness.

I went through the Extraordinary Leader assessment process and discovered I was a ‘good’ but not a ‘great’ leader. The assessment opened my eyes! I could see how others in groups of Direct Reports, Peers, and Others viewed me as a leader. I received a confirmation of the things that I did well and didn’t do as well. One of the most valuable things was seeing my biggest strengths and the one thing I could work on.

I needed to see feedback in black and white – to see my ratings compared to normative data and to read the comments of people I was trying to lead. Now, ten years later, I still remember that report. Giving people an anonymous platform to provide meaningful feedback is such a gift. The anonymity of the 360 permitted them to say some things that are hard to tell someone. In the end, I had data that substantiated that I was a good but not a great leader. Most importantly, I could see a pathway to becoming a better leader – maybe even a “best boss ever.”

How valuable could it be to know exactly how good of a leader you are? What if you knew it – wouldn’t you be incredibly motivated to work on taking it to the next level and becoming a great leader? Leading people at the highest level is one of the hardest things to do, and when you start to play on that stage, the joy of leading others is fully experienced.

Your journey to becoming an extraordinary leader starts with getting the best feedback possible so that you can create a plan. Don’t just start developing yourself until you know your strengths and opportunities. Contact me to discuss the easiest way for you to get meaningful feedback.

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