Offered feedback, delivered the positive and the negative and worked with me to develop a plan to improve my effectiveness as a VP of Medical Affairs. After six months of executive coaching, my hospital CEO sees me as a star player and I truly feel like a key player on the executive team.”
— A Vice President of Medical Affairs

Healthcare physician and executive leaders are often lacking the most critical information they need to effectively lead their people. It’s not found in a stack of weekly status reports. It’s not gained by real-time access to data about everything that is going on in their areas of responsibility. It’s something much more important. What dulls the effectiveness of healthcare leaders is a lack of direct, honest and detailed feedback from the people who work around them.

In this newsletter so far, I have covered self-awareness, the role of naysayers in an organization and intentions vs. impact—the difference between what a leader is trying to accomplish and the eventual impact that their actions truly have. The key is feedback. Without 360-degree feedback, you cannot fully develop self-awareness, you won’t know if you are perceived to be demanding or a naysayer, and you will have little clue of what the impact of your actions are, regardless of your good intentions. You also won’t know if people just think you’re great.

In coaching, I employ a 360-degree survey that assesses behavior on the job against a set of competencies that are required for success. People who work around my clients—supervisors, peers, and direct reports—give me honest feedback, which provides me with a baseline for starting my work. The insights from the survey and self-assessment become a foundation for achieving critical goals.

Initially, the people I work with may be resistant to feedback, particularly if there is a point with which they don’t agree. At other times they are amazed by something they had no idea that they were doing. Both of these reactions are in response to the expressed perceptions of others around the leader.

Some of the feedback might not represent the reality of a given situation, and may be just a perception. However, regardless of whether it is perception or reality, it is an area that the leader needs to focus on to be more productive. Something the leader is doing or is not doing is creating the perception, and action is required.

If people believe that you are too demanding and you feel you are being decisive, it is up to you as a leader to change that perception so you can be more effective at what you do. If you believe that you have a knack for probing to find problems with ideas, but everyone else believes you are a naysayer instead, then you have to work hard to change that perception by gauging your intentions vs. the impact you’re having. You need to use your ability to see problems to engage the group in dialogue rather than shutting them down with critiques that are shot from the hip.

Work From Your Perceived Strengths

The need to work off of people’s perceptions is just as true whether the issue is a strength or a weakness. I have had clients who were dumfounded during the feedback process at what the people around them saw as their strengths and what they valued about them.

If people around you see you as someone who can easily and effectively resolve conflicts between others, you need to work on that talent and take advantage of opportunities to use that strength for the betterment of the organization. If they see you as a just-the-facts, detailed kind of person (as many physician leaders are), you need to leverage that strength to improve the organization and to elevate your standing in it..

For example, you could take advantage of that trait in a staff meeting or a multidisciplinary, interdepartmental exchange by getting up at the end and wrapping it all up by saying, “Now, this is what I understand that has come out of this meeting…” Because of your orientation to detail, you have all of the information and bullets right there. Others may be struggling a little and are unclear, while you are synthesizing it and causing it to make more sense for them, giving them a clear idea of what is expected from everyone after the meeting is over.

The Value of Feedback

None of this improvement in effectiveness can occur without having direct, honest feedback. I have had one client, who, after receiving this 360-degree feedback, went to one of his team members and said: “I have received feedback that I am too critical in meetings. I wanted to let you know that I’m really going to work on that. When you see me doing it, I would like you to give me some honest feedback and draw my attention to what I’m doing when I’m doing it.” That simple statement had a profound effect in setting the stage for his improvement in that area.

Of course, the word spread quickly, because his team members had been talking about it for years; he was the only one who didn’t know about it.

That client’s openness also broke the ice throughout his entire department and started opening the way to the creation of a culture of feedback, and more than that, a culture of dialogue. From that day they knew their feedback was welcome and valued, and they began to feel comfortable expressing it.

Initial feedback is valuable because it establishes a starting point that a leader can always go back to in setting goals and assessing progress. Ongoing feedback is critical to continuous improvement in leadership effectiveness.

Finding Your Blind Spots

Feedback can bring out “blind spots” in self-awareness that may erode your authority and positive impact. Fostering a culture of feedback by drawing attention to issues you are working on and keeping that attention focused will help you find, and continually improve on, your strengths as a leader. Continual feedback will keep you keenly aware of the effect that your actions have on others around you.

Go out and get it, and when you do, embrace it.