I have worked with hundreds of leaders through the years. My experience and belief is that none of them had bad intentions.
I’ve used several well-regarded instruments for collecting and analyzing feedback from the people they work with. Typically the assessments include surveys of:
- Direct Reports
This gives us a full “360” view of their style.
Each of the four assessments can be categorized into three general areas:
- Very high overall assessment
- Neutral or “middle of the road” assessment
- Very low or undervalued assessment
When the self-assessment is very high, I find that it is driven by ego and lack of self-awareness. Large egos are often driven by fear of failure, low self-assessment, or very low self-awareness. I have found that this low self-awareness happens because they believe their intentions and actions are at the highest level. They only want the best for others, the project, or the team.
This “middle of the road” assessment is often driven by a belief that they have very good intentions but they aren’t the “smartest person in the room” and they are very open to others’ ideas and constantly striving for unity based on respect.
This one may actually concern me the most. It is often driven by low self-respect and low self-esteem and is the toughest issue to deal with. It is often driven by long-standing, historical issues of neglect, abuse, and lack of self-worth. These are psychological issues that I believe are beyond a business consultant.
Direct Report Assessments
Direct Reports can also fall into the three general areas of high, neutral, and low. While the self-assessment is driven mostly by intentions, the Direct Reports often assess actions. The comparison of self- and direct reports will often be the clearest indicator of Intentions vs Actions.
While most leaders will work hard at being a good leader to their team (either intentionally or in action) they don’t feel the same need to be a good team member. They can believe that peers should know their job and do their job. It’s not their job as a team member to help and direct them but only to praise or criticize.
Often people are described as “managing up well.” This means they will always attempt to look good in front of the boss and always do what is being asked. Sometimes they’re referred to as “yes men”. Having a good score from the boss is not a bad thing. In fact, it’s a good thing. But only if there are also good scores from peers and direct reports.
The point of these exercises is to know if our actions are matching our intentions. I said at the beginning of this blog that I don’t believe leaders have bad intentions. However, even with good intentions, I’ve worked with several leaders who have bad actions that don’t align with those good intentions.
Work hard at getting accurate feedback. This can be done with formal assessments like we just discussed. Or better yet, if the people around you feel comfortable giving you straight feedback. You’ll become a better leader and team member if you respect and appreciate the feedback you’re getting.