Join Bill George for an in-depth discussion in this video Seek feedback, part of Bill George on Self Awareness, Authenticity, and Leadership.
- One of the hardest things any leader has to do is to see themselves as others see them. And that is really, much more difficult than you think. It's been really hard for me, because a lot of times I feel like I have no idea how I can read people, how they're receiving the ideas I have, and how we're really engaging. And it's the only way I know of to do that, is to get honest feedback from people. Who can you, in your life, count on to give you honest feedback? To say, Bill, you're going off-track? Well, going all the way back for me, it was those seniors at Georgia Tech.
But I've had a lot of mentors that will tell me: Bill, are you going the right way? I see changes in you, and I don't know why you're doing this. You're too caught up in a title, or in trying to reach this goal. And I don't feel like I have the real person anymore. Or my wife, who will tell me: Why did you try to impress all those people? Why were you dropping names about having met with Elon Musk? Or some, Bill Gates, or someone like that? Why don't you just be yourself? Yeah, I do get caught up in that. So what do you do to get feedback? I encourage you to ask people close to you for honest feedback about how you're coming across.
Start with just one person. Say: how am I coming across, to you? What things do you see, in me? Because one of the things we all have in life, are blind spots. Where others can see things in us, and we can't see those same things. The only way to overcome your blind spots, is to have people around you that'll point 'em out to you. There were times in my life, I was so blind, I couldn't see my own blind spots, and I was pushing away people who wanted to give me that feedback. Shame on me. But by getting that honest feedback from people, and having a group of people that will tell me that, I've had a men's group that's met for 41 years in a living area of a church not far from where we live, it started out as a prayer group.
We don't pray very much anymore, but one thing we do is to give each other honest feedback. We talk about what's really important in our lives. And that honest feedback is so helpful to me. I'll give you an example. A number of years ago, I was at Honeywell. And I was en route to the top. I was one of the two candidates to become the next CEO. The decision was three or four years away. But all of a sudden, I wasn't acting myself. I was trying to grab for that brass ring of getting to be CEO, something I'd always dreamt of being, of a big company, and I was dressing a different way, wearing cuff links, which I don't wear, trying to impress people out there.
And I remember going home to my wife. I had an experience where I saw the real Bill George in the mirror, and it was pretty ugly. So I went home and told my wife, Penny, this. She said: Bill, I've been trying to tell you this for a year; you just refused to listen. See, it's the people closest to you that see you as you are. And I did refuse to listen. So, the next morning, I went to my men's group and told 'em what I was feeling. They said: yeah, we've been seeing these changes in you. Why'd you turn Medtronic down for a job? And you'll see the ego coming out, here I said, well, Medtronic's kind of a mid-sized company. I thought I was gonna be head of a big company.
And they said: why don't you give it a shot? I tell you, I looked hard at Medtronic, I made the change from Honeywell to Medtronic. It was the best thing that ever happened to me. And I realized it wasn't important to be CEO of a really large company. What's important is to be with a group of people that I cared about, where we have a common goal to go make a difference. And that opened up everything that's happened in my life for the last 25 years. All because I finally had some self awareness, and got some honest feedback that I actually listened to and decided to take the advice and make a major change in my life.
And it's helped my family, my relationships, my friendships, and I've been able to accomplish things I never dreamt I could do. But I had to close that door at Honeywell, before I could walk through that open door at Medtronic. So now, look into your life. Who do you get feedback from? Who's gonna help you, when you're going off-course? Because your life may not be everything that you want it to be, but you feel like I'm in a box; I can't make a change. Actually, you could. You can quit your job. You can find something else. I'm not gonna encourage you to quit your family, but you can improve relationships in your family, if you realize you're going the wrong way.
But you need to take that step. So start today, to get honest feedback from people in your life. Write down a list of who're the people, your truth-tellers, who'll give you that honest feedback, and that will tell you the truth, and aren't just there because they're impressed by you, but because they really, deeply care about you. And they will tell you the truth. And then, go start with one of them, and then a group of people, and ask 'em for that feedback. And I think you'll find you're a much more effective leader when you do that. You're much more authentic; you're much more real. And a lot of the baggage you're carrying with you, you can chuck aside and just be real.
Because people told you what was important, and you can learn to see yourself as others see you. And that's a great gift, when you can do that.
- Understanding your desires and fears
- Knowing and owning your life story
- Seeking feedback
- Accepting yourself