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Posts Tagged ‘Kouzes and Posner’

Image via Flickr user blondie478

Image via Flickr user blondie478

Good leaders are constantly trying to improve.  They’re looking for data points and feedback, and they’re internalizing and assessing how that information can make them better leaders.  Leadership authors James Kouzes and Barry Posner assert that, “the leader’s primary contribution is in the recognition of good ideas, the support of those ideas, and the willingness to challenge the system…call them early adopters of innovation.”

 But we’ve got to be careful.

When we’ve got a lot of touch points with our employees, we’ve got the opportunity to hear what they’re saying – all of it, negative and positive.  I know that leaders have every intention of doing the right thing, which means not only listening to the feedback they’re getting but acting on it.  Yet not all feedback should change the direction you’re already headed in. 

When you get negative feedback, what do you do with it?  I see a lot of well-meaning leaders listen to feedback and change their course to address that comment.  I struggle with this myself.  But what happens when that comment is coming from the minority?  With just anecdotal evidence, you run the risk of changing the course of a process, program, or policy that was already working well for the majority.

Leaders need to be cognizant of the diversity of their work force: people approach and react to situations in ways that reflect the differences in their background and past experiences.  If only two percent of your employees dislike something, you will be catering to the lowest common denominator rather than the good of the greater whole.

My caution is not to let the one bad apple spoil the bunch.  Yes, you need to show people that you have listened to their feedback.  But leaders also need to think critically about what they’re hearing and do some additional research to learn how widespread the sentiment is.  For example, if an employee does something wrong because they didn’t know what the correct process was, that doesn’t necessarily mean the process needs to be tweaked.  Maybe the fault was a lack of communication between the employee and the leader, rather than a faulty process. 

Instead, consider using that first bit of feedback as a trigger – use it to spur some additional prodding to determine if recognizing the idea and pushing the system to change it is truly the right decision.

Have you ever thought about removing the rotten apple before it infects the good ones?

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