This article is the fourth in a five-part series focused on the need for continuous learning. Read Part 1, originally published in the July/August 2018 issue of Chief Learning Officer. Read Part 2, Part 3 and Part 5.
According to Brian Herbert, a New York Times best-selling author, “The capacity to learn is a gift; the ability to learn is a skill; the willingness to learn is a choice.”
It’s a fact: Learning is a choice, and the more disciplined your approach to learning, the better your capability to succeed. And nothing enables learning more than feedback.
Do you remember the days before the existence and use of any global positioning system? It’s a wonder we ever got where we were going! Back in those days, to reasonably get to somewhere new, you had to download and print directions from the internet, buy a map from a gas station attendant or stop by your local AAA office to get detailed route directions. Those resources worked really well if you stayed on course and knew where you were at all times relative to the map.
In a conversation with Ryan Halley, professor of finance at George Fox University and one of my co-authors of “My Best Advice: Proven Rules For Effective Leadership,” he shared the following story, which puts a clearer perspective to navigating by map: “We once were on a trip to the Boundary Waters in upper Minnesota and lower Canada. What a beautiful and vast place! Over 10 days, we journeyed 120 miles by canoe and foot. We crossed over 20 lakes. We had many maps with us on that journey. Those maps were a lifesaver. But the critical nature of navigating that terrain hinged on our ability to always know where we were on the map.”
You see, maps are virtually useless if you don’t know where you are. The power of modern GPS is location and continuous feedback. The satellites used for GPS tracking consistently provide you with feedback about where you are relative to where you want to be. They’ve changed our navigational lives, and location and feedback will change your professional and personal life in much the same way. If you’re looking to get somewhere new, there’s no way better to get there than from feedback about where you currently are relative to where you want to be.
Let’s be honest: Just as maps are useless without knowing where you are, so too is any strategic plan, product road map or personal development plan. It’s trusted feedback that’s most relevant and valued. In short, feedback is a gift.
Feedback is an accelerator to realizing any vision, achieving greatness and ensuring continual improvement. Cheryl Smith recognized the power and importance of feedback while navigating to the role of chief information officer at McKesson. She said that in any (and every) interaction with your supervising manager, peers, customers and subordinates, it’s valuable to get feedback. She never missed an opportunity to ask: “What am I doing that you want me to continue doing? What am I doing that you want me to stop doing or change? What am I not doing that you want me to start doing?”
These questions help to maintain alignment with expectations and build a rapport that makes it easier to point out issues (such as success delusion) when they do arise — and they will, whether you’re in the Boundary Waters or an organization trying to navigate the changing landscape of markets and other challenges.
In addition to asking Smith’s questions of your boss and others, you can use them to test your leadership among your team. Turn them into statements, and even add to them a bit to make sure you’re accelerating greatness for others by helping them learn through the power of feedback. Answering yes or no to the following statements weekly, if not daily, can help your team get better individually and collectively:
- This week, I gave constructive feedback that will help my team increase performance.
- I showed genuine care, concern and individualized consideration to help my team get to where they need to be.
- I helped align priorities and expectations to our vision — and helped navigate pitfalls and obstacles.
- I shared information from my meetings with my team to help them see the larger picture of the enterprise and meaning in their work and contributions.
- I helped my team members with their individual development plans and career projection by emphasizing the need for continuous learning.
Be serious about feedback. It helps establish the real value of GPS. It accelerates learning. It accelerates greatness.
Tim Rahschulte is former CLO of Evanta, current CEO at the Professional Development Academy and professor of business at George Fox University. His latest book is “My Best Advice: Proven Rules for Effective Leadership,” which he co-authored with Ryan Halley and Russ Martinelli. He can be reached at editor@CLOmedia.com.