Should leaders be evaluated, just like every other member of the organization? And, is it appropriate for those under the leader to give that type of feedback?
The Employers’ Association team has worked hard for many years to build a culture which values, delivers and maintains a very high standard of customer service both externally (members) and internally (staff associates). As an organization we believe that this high level of service sets us apart from our competitors, builds trust and loyalty with customers (members) and has been a key part of our success as an organization.
To establish and maintain this high standard, our very simple rule is always get back to the customer – internal or external – in 24 hours or less. You don’t have to have the final answer, but the question or problem must be acknowledged and the expected timeframe for finding a solution must be given in the 24 hour time slot.
Unfortunately, The EA has recently experienced a number of issues around appropriate customer service. While many reasons could be offered and some would be legitimate, the bottom line is that the cultural standard had slipped with members and internal staff.
At a recent leaders meeting, this very important topic was discussed. The EA is a small organization, so having hard data or specific measurements to prove or disprove adherence to the rule is simply not cost-effective, but as a group we “know” whether or not we are in compliance.
Or do we?
In an attempt to gauge my own compliance, I asked a question for which I was confident I knew the answer. The question was, “On a scale of 1 to 4, with 4 being absolute compliance with the 24-hour rule, how would you rate my response level?” Believing all four leaders would say 3.5 or 4, I was shocked to hear 2.5, 3, 2.5 and 3. Fortunately, in the moment, I decided to follow up personally with each leader to better learn why they had given me the scores they did.
Over the next few days I did talk with each leader and their feedback was very helpful. I better understood their individual needs in regard to good information in a timely manner. Some even increased their assessment score during the discussion (although this was not necessary). Their assessment had sent a clear message – my self-assessment was not a true assessment. I needed to be open to feedback and change my behavior in order to better serve them as a leader.
As leaders we sometimes suffer from a lack of direct feedback. Life at the top sometimes means we become isolated from the kind of assessments we routinely give those that report to us; instead, we rely on only our own judgement. Is that wise? Well the take-away for me is no, it is not. Somehow, some way, I need to get feedback on my performance as well. Otherwise, my self-assessment may only be a self-delusion.
photo credit: Amanda Rahe photography