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West Point Cadets
West Point cadets and instructors

West Point Cadets

A group of 13 cadets and four instructors from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point take on the weekly 'On Leadership' questions. Who better to explore the gray areas of leadership than members of The Long Gray Line?

How to take feedback

Question: Like U.S. presidents, military and non-profit leaders often face the equivalent of "midterm elections" in which they and their strategies are subject to an initial market test or performance evaluation. What's the first thing President Obama, or any leader, should do or say when confronted with unambiguously negative results from a mid-course evaluation?

Feedback is critical. Elections are a form of periodic public feedback for public leaders, but in many workplaces feedback must be solicited by the leadership. Self-awareness is a critical component of effective leadership, and feedback from followers is a very important tool we have as leaders to honestly assess ourselves.

Now, supposing you have successfully collected feedback from others, you should first listen to the feedback and take some quiet, personal time to reflect objectively on the content. Negative comments are often hard to acknowledge, and some leaders take criticism personally. My advice is not to. Once you can clearly reflect, then you'll need to decide whether or not you will adjust your behavior based on the feedback. The best mid-course evaluations solicit feedback that allows followers to tell a leader what they can do to improve. Finally, pay close attention to what your followers need. Sometimes needs and wants are vastly different. Keep a positive attitude and keep moving forward; confront negativity with a can-do spirit of humility and you will earn the regard of the people who matter most. -Cadet Christina Tamayo

It has been said that success has many fathers but failure is an orphan. A benefit of living in a democratic society is that the people have a voice. Whether or not this week's public feedback changes the makeup of our elected leadership, every leader should first take an honest look at their future plans and at the successes or failures of past performance. Behind every contentious issue is an opportunity to do better in the future.

Once the public has spoken, regardless of the results, leaders must work together to
meet our country's needs. It takes a mature leader to move beyond judging an idea or initiative based on its source. We should thank past leaders, welcome our new ones and move forward to pursue solutions to America's challenges. Doing something productive with public feedback is what makes the United States the greatest country on Earth. -Cadet Brian McBee

Note: The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not reflect the official policy or position of the Department of the Army, Department of Defense, or the U.S. Government.

By West Point Cadets

 |  November 3, 2010; 1:51 PM ET
Category:  Accomplishing Goals , Crisis leadership , Failures , Government leadership , Military Leadership , Political leadership , Presidential leadership Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
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Please report offensive comments below.

Great input. More often than not, it is not the feedback but the opportunity missed in interpretation or use. Many scoff at negative feedback instead of at least trying to get the "feeder" to explaing their version. The opportunities come from every meeting with your "feeder" and missing their explanation. Far too often information is either digested (if palatable) or discarded (if not palatable.)

Leaders cannot afford the actions of a child that does not like carrots and feeds it to the dog under the table. We often swallow things far worse than our pride!

Posted by: jbeeler | November 5, 2010 8:12 AM
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