The importance of external feedback

Some of us kittens look into a mirror and see a mighty lion staring back at us. Some of us lions see little kittens. Honest and clear-headed self evaluation is important… but alas this is a blog about leading mission driven organizations and I’m no pop psychologist. Nevertheless, I believe that the parallels to leadership are worth thinking about.

It isn’t every day that the leader of an organization can pressure test their own organization’s self evaluation. I’m increasingly recommending to organizations going through a strategic planning process that gaining external feedback is vital. In fact, I am wary of organizations that are considering environmental trends and developing a sense of their future and which do not see the value of external feedback.

A thirty to forty-five minute interview with leaders of key constituent groups can be eye opening… and challenging, depending on the results. I note that it’s important to conduct such interviews professionally and very carefully as leaders will open up when there is trust and a reasonable understanding of who they are and how they relate to the organization in question. Doing homework in advance is highly recommended. Also, having someone outside of the organization and who does not have an existing relationship and history (or baggage) conduct the interviews helps.

I recommend speaking with payers/funders, regulators, community leaders, key vendors, professional associations, patients/clients, suppliers, and even competitors. I have never been denied a request to speak with an organization’s competitor. And I am always surprised by how candid those leaders are about the organization in question. Generally speaking, people really appreciate being asked for feedback.

It’s also important to ascertain the true purpose of those interviews. I like to distinguish between the role of journalist and that of broker. As a consultant, I am sometimes asked to interview others in order to learn and to probe, i.e., be a journalist. Other times, there are subtle messages or agendas that are in play, i.e., the broker role. It’s essential to have clarity going in on this point.

Then, it is necessary to summarize all that is learned in ways that are meaningful to the organization. Oftentimes, there are important findings contained within those summaries which should be fully analyzed. Sometimes, lions have to confront feedback suggesting that they are kittens after all. This can be a hard lesson… but it is typically quite necessary.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: