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Earplugs out, Music in, please

applause“If you don’t get feedback from your performers and your audience, you’re going to be working in a vacuum.” Sir Peter Maxwell Davies, famous orchestra conductor.

Are you conducting your leadership with earplugs in or are you engaging with your performers and audience?  When you ask for feedback from your team and clients without delay, or give them a compliment, you engage them and make them feel special and respected.  When you don’t ask them for feedback they feel left out and disengaged.

Some years ago I held a presentation about an investment opportunity. At the end of the presentation and Q&A session, I wrapped up, packed up my gear and headed for the bar to do some networking. Pretty quickly I’m in a conversation with a client, who asked me “Why didn’t you ask me for any feedback, don’t you care?” I shifted uncomfortably and finally admitted that I didn’t feel that my presentation was very good and so I felt reluctant to ask anyone for feedback (I’m just human after all, I guess). Being ambitious, I was instantly quite frustrated because a not so good presentation is one thing, but a client not feeling cared about is just unacceptable.

Not only did I miss out on a good opportunity to find out how I could improve my next presentation, but also I missed out on a good opportunity to include my audience, to engage this client. To make him feel like he was part of this effort.

It takes only a few seconds to ask for feedback.  Doing this daily not only engages your team, your colleagues, and your clients, but it allows you to learn something about your personal leadership style. In short: you can learn how to conduct better.

Of course, I asked for the client’s feedback on the spot. And to my surprise, he very much appreciated the presentation, except for a few specific slides on some too-detailed research. Self-perception and my blind spot can be deceiving, I learned.

Vineet Nayar, CEO of HCL Technologies, one of the largest I.T. outsourcing firms in the world, is also a believer in feedback.  He said in an interview with Forbes: “…one of (the) initiatives we took was my 360 Degree (feedback) is done by 80,000 employees across the world and the results are published on the web.”  Vineet is author of the book Employees First, Customers Second.  He says: “the very fact that you as an employee can rate a CEO and the results are published on the web for all to see creates the accountability for the managers and management, and creates a culture which unlocks a huge amount of energy in the corporation.”

When time is short, it’s always about making a choice, never about the scarcity of time. So don’t put your personal leadership at the bottom of the “To Do” list. Take the 30 seconds each day that is required to ask for just-in-time feedback or to give a compliment.  Choose to stay close and be connected to your team – your performers. And hear your clients – it’s your audience, and if you’re not open for their feedback, you won’t hear their applause either.

Listen to the music!

Maurik Dippel, @HelloKatch, Founder of Katch

Otbert de Jong, Katch Asia

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