(615) 656-0465 mark@markskenny.com

I recently learned an important lesson…again. I need to be asking for feedback. So do you. If your goal is to build a functional, collaborative, aligned team, feedback is your secret weapon.

Here’s what happened. Most of my work involves helping leaders build functional, collaborative, aligned teams. I do this through my various speaking, consulting, and training programs. For example, next week I am facilitating my strategic offsite program to help a leadership team become cohesive, aligned, and clear. But in the evenings during the fall and winter, you will find me on the basketball court coaching a high school girls’ team. Last weekend, in preparation, I attended a leadership clinic here in Nashville specifically for basketball coaches.

Before the clinic, I had some homework. I was to ask a few people close to me the following three questions:

    1. What are my 2 to 3 best leadership traits?
    2. What are 2 to 3 areas that I need to work on, in my leadership?
    3. What is it like to be around me in the season?

When I received the pre-work assignment, I had three thoughts.

My first thought was that I really didn’t have to send out the questions. It wasn’t required. I could just not do it. Because I really didn’t want to do it. I had some ideas but naturally wondered what I would receive back. Sometimes hearing feedback can be tough. That’s a reality. But good leadership isn’t comfortable.

My second thought was that if my goal is to be a transformational coach, both on and off the court, I can’t achieve that goal without obtaining good feedback. I have to do it. Or I won’t be a transformational coach. I am going to say that again, for my benefit, as much as yours.

I will not be a transformational leader / coach without asking for feedback.

My third thought was that wondering what people think of me is worse than knowing what people think of me. In my experience with teams, many of us, myself included, do a lot of wondering.

So, I sent those questions to my two assistant coaches and some of my trusted players, who I consider leaders on the team. I knew they would answer me honestly.

The answers I received back were thoughtful, insightful, and encouraging. There were similar themes, which gives me a lot of clarity on what I am doing well and exactly what I can improve. Here’s what I need to work on: be more clear and concise in my instructions and focus on only a couple skills at a time so that I don’t overwhelm players with too much instruction.

Clarity brings peace. Ambiguity brings anxiety.

I know what to work on. I know what the team needs from me. I know what is helpful and I need to continue doing.

What’s more, this simple little exercise opens up future conversations. I’ve already started the process. I’ve opened the door for more conversation. They now know that I want to get better. I can ask them how I’m doing in the areas in which I need to work.

I’ll be doing this in other areas of my actual work and life.

If you are a leader of a team, do the same. Choose a few people whom you trust. You don’t need to send it to everyone. You don’t need to send it to people whom you don’t feel have your best interests at heart. Send the same three questions to people you trust:

  1. What are my 2 to 3 best leadership traits?
  2. What are 2 to 3 areas that I need to work on, in my leadership?
  3. What is it like to be around me?

And see what happens to your team and to your own leadership.