The Leadership Insider network is an online community where the most thoughtful and influential people in business contribute answers to timely questions about careers and leadership. Today’s answer to the question “What is the most important quality a leader should demonstrate?” is by Frank Calderoni, EVP of operations and CFO at Red Hat.
The first time I cringed when I received honest feedback was about 30 years ago. I was working at IBM (IBM) as a manager of financial analysis and strategy, and I had the opportunity to participate in a leadership assessment program that was incredibly intense. You were heavily scrutinized by top executives as an individual and a team player.
I had a hard time digesting this type of feedback and was quick to be defensive. But, I now realize it was one of the greatest leadership gifts given to me early on in my career. Frankly, the more cringe-worthy the feedback, the better it was. Leaders who took the time to participate in our assessment program genuinely wanted to see us succeed. From that moment on, I knew that one of the most important qualities a leader could demonstrate is receiving and giving feedback, especially the good, the bad, and the cringe-worthy. No leader (or employee) is perfect. Everyone has blind spots. And, that kind of self-awareness can only help you improve.
See also: Doing This Will Make You a Better Leader
As a new manager in the 1980s, I often hesitated to give my perspective and opinion unless asked. I was told to be more assertive. As a natural introvert, this was something that I had to get comfortable with. Once I began giving my opinion more often, I quickly realized I was not only contributing to solutions, but I felt more engaged in the overall decision-making process. I was also told to think beyond my accounting role and understand the broader business environment. This important feedback enabled me to see the big picture, connect the dots, and take smarter risks.
Feedback is one of the greatest gifts you can give someone. It can increase trust and productivity among teams. Although it can be hard to give, more often than not people are completely unaware that they are being viewed a certain way. Giving constructive criticism takes practice, but as long as the receiver knows you care and are invested, they generally take it well. I also make a point to ask for opinions constantly, whether it comes from my peers, direct reports, or from an anonymous survey after an all staff meeting. This type of feedback has helped me shift and modify my behavior when necessary. Even if you’ve reached your management goals, there is something to be said about having butterflies in your stomach when you show up at work. That kind of adrenaline is what keeps me motivated.
Today, I rarely cringe when I receive feedback as I know it will only help me be a better leader. Fortunately, now I am ready for it, and I can reply with thank you.