You can’t grow from the things you don’t know. 

Early on in my journey speaking to large groups of people I had an annoying habit. To be honest, I probably had a lot. But this particular habit frustrated a lot of people who listened to me speak. The only problem was that I was completely unaware of it. 

Have you ever arrived home after a day of meetings only to discover a giant piece of food (it’s almost always green) lodged between your front teeth and thought to yourself “why didn’t anyone tell me!”

Much like this situation, every time I was given the opportunity to speak I had a metaphorical piece of food in my front teeth that everyone else could see except me. One day a good friend approached me with some feedback. In this glass shattering moment, they pointed out the habit and it instantly became visible to me. I couldn’t believe I didn’t notice it sooner. As painful as the process was, I realised just how significant this was in helping me become a better communicator. It reinforced to me this idea that “you can’t grow from the things you don’t know”. 

There’s no argument that feedback is critical to leadership growth because it holds a mirror up to our blind spots and shows us where we need to get better. However there are decisions we can make to leverage feedback and accelerate our leadership growth. I have found that the fastest pathway for growth and progress occurs when feedback is both: 

1. Intentionally Sought 

2. Openly Embraced  

Intentionally Sought Feedback

In regards to feedback there are two types of people. Those who wait for feedback and those who seek feedback. People who experience the fastest growth are those who are intentionally seeking out feedback. Time spent waiting for feedback to find us is time spent reinforcing bad behaviour or habits without our knowledge. Those who actively seek feedback on a regular basis nip bad behaviours in the bud before they begin to take root. It’s the equivalent of asking someone “is there anything in my teeth” before spending a day in meetings with a lot of awkward stares.  

Here are three questions you can ask to intentionally seek feedback. Try them out with someone you trust next time you meet. 

Feedback Questions

a.) Is there anything you see that I could be doing different to make more progress right now? 

b.) Is there anything you see me doing that I might not be able to see right now? 

c.) Is there anything you would like to say to me that you think I need to hear?

Openly Embraced Feedback

Whilst its important to seek out feedback we also need to be open to receiving what is being said. We all understand that feedback is important, but feedback isn’t always easy to hear. Growth requires change and where there is change there is pain. The harder we have to work to change a behaviour or habit, the more painful that process can become. It also requires a high degree of humility to recognise that there are some things we just don’t know, especially when others seem to know more than us. Leaders understand that in order to continue growing we need to be humble enough to acknowledge our blind spots. If we are intentional about asking for feedback but refuse to listen when it is given we self sabotage our own growth. 

Here are three feedback mindsets you can adopt to help you openly embrace the feedback you receive. 

Feedback Mindsets

a.) I need this to grow – I want to grow and can’t grow from the things I don’t know. This will make me bigger and better.

b.) This is not an attack – This is about what I am doing and not who I am. I value what is said and don’t need to defend. Even if I disagree there is something here I can learn. 

c.) This person values me enough to say something – Giving feedback is sometimes just as difficult as receiving it. If someone gives me feedback, it shows me that they care about my development. 

You can’t grow from the things that you don’t know. The pathway to fast growth is being intentional about discovering these things, openly embracing the feedback and making positive change. I’ve also found that a coach or mentor is a great way to get this perspective quickly. If you would like to talk more then contact me here