How to Get Useful Feedback When You’re a C-Suite Executive

Three ways to get useful feedback at the top of the corporate ladder

black-young-boss-300x232

As you work your way up the corporate ladder, it’s customary to receive constructive feedback in the form of a performance review or some other useful tool. However, once you reach the C-Suite, you may receive very little, if any at all. Maybe it’s because giving (and receiving) feedback can prove a bit problematic at all levels.

A Harvard Business Review article notes that “Most managers say they dislike giving feedback and don’t think it’s as effective as it could be. Those on the receiving end say they don’t get enough feedback they can actually use.” This issue is exacerbated in the C-Suite, as executives are often insulated from criticism and have increased autonomy and responsibility.

[Related: Women of Power: Not Moving Up at Work? 3 Smart Steps to Assess Yourself and Advance]

If you find yourself in this predicament, don’t fall victim to the status quo. Learn how to evaluate your performance and avoid these hiccups as you make your way to the C-Suite:

1. Groupthink is a psychological phenomenon that manifests when a group of people desire to avoid conflict and end up making irrational decisions that lead to poor outcomes. When executives don’t get a fresh pair of eyes and ears to evaluate their performance, they may come to rely on the feedback received from peers who are likely focused on group cohesiveness.

If so, those peers may simply tell the person what he or she wants to hear, and vice versa. Problems arise when decisions are based on false evaluations which, of course, can negatively influence outcomes. Avoid groupthink by seeking constructive criticism from a third party that can provide the candid and accurate feedback you need to evaluate and improve your performance.

2. Superman/Superwoman Complex. When you don’t hear anything to the contrary, you may begin to believe that you are…invincible. This often leads to flawed decision-making. Even when no one else is telling you how ‘airtight’ your performance may be, you may just assume it. This often occurs when someone has developed a pattern of thinking and behaving that has gone unchecked for so long that they feel it must be right, especially since no one has challenged it. This complex has the same effect as groupthink.

Avoid the superman/superwoman complex by stepping outside of your comfort zone and refusing to assume that whatever you are thinking/doing is inherently correct. Get regular feedback. Challenge yourself by reviewing case studies and evaluating results cultivated by others who may have done it your way, as well as seeking feedback from a third party who can help you proactively confront the status quo.

3. Doubting Thomas. One of the worst scenarios for a high-powered executive to be in is that of always second-guessing him or herself. It’s counterproductive and forces you to operate from a position of weakness rather than strength. You can avoid this scenario by confronting your uncertainty and asking for immediate feedback whenever you are in unfamiliar territory or feel that the stakes require more input. Once you get clear on what it is you want, you won’t have to revisit. You can move on to bigger fish, thereby rightfully silencing your inner skeptic and building your decision-making muscles along the way.

These strategies will help you avoid these blunders and prepare you to deliver your best performance once you reach the C-Suite.

To your success.

Karima Mariama-Arthur, Esq. is the founder and CEO of WordSmithRapport, an international consulting firm specializing in professional development. Follow her on Twitter: @wsrapport or visit her website, www.wordsmithrapport.com.