Friday, August 07, 2015

Two Timely Lessons on Personal Growth

Growth is a necessary part of the life of a leader.  If one fails to grow, he or she will not last long in a leadership role.  Two of the speakers at the Willow Creek Global Leadership Summit today addressed individual growth from very different perspectives. 

Shelia Heen addressed the importance of feedback—accepting it rather then giving it.  Heen has spent two decades at the Harvard Negotiation Project and now works with executive teams through her firm, Triad Consulting Group. In her most recent book, Thanks for the Feedback (co-authored with Doug Stone), she helps readers to understand how to receive feedback and use it for personal growth and development.

In a very dynamic presentation, she pointed out that we “swim in an ocean of feedback” but that doesn’t mean that we know what to do with it.  Heen suggested three levels of feedback

        Appreciation keeps us motivated.
        Coaching helps us get better
        Evaluation tells us where we stand.

Heen explained the importance of each type of feedback.  A primary reason that people leave a job is that they don’t feel appreciated; this is the first level of feedback.  She also pointed out that coaching and evaluation should be clearly separated if they are to be effective means of feedback.  Too often they are connected in the dreaded “annual performance review.”

She concluded by pointing out the model of Jesus Christ in providing constructive feedback to the disciples in a supportive environment.  Her presentation motivated me to rethink how I both give and receive feedback.

Liz Wiseman’s presentation suggested a way that those of us who have been in leadership for a long time might reignite our creativity.  We can do this by becoming “rookies” again.  In her book Rookie Smarts: Why Learning Beats Knowing in the New Game of Work, Wiseman explains that the path to renewal for the most experienced and successful professionals is to “find their rookie groove” again. 
How can we do this?  Here are a few suggestions she made:
  1. Go through and throw out all your old plans or notes and start over again.   
  2. Liberate yourself from being the expert by asking questions.
  3. Identify and admit what you don’t know!
  4. Give someone else the chance to take the lead and learn from them.
  5. Tackle a new project that is bigger than yourself.
Of course, Wiseman is really addressing the need to be a lifelong learner, but she presented it in an interesting and entertaining package. 

Both presenters helped us to see how their concepts can be used in any setting—secular, not-for-profit, or faith-based.  They got my attention, and I look forward to reading their books.

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