How to Interpret Feedback to Develop Leader Character
Leader character is essential to effective leadership because it determines how a leader will respond to challenges, make decisions, and interact with others. When leaders possess strong character traits, they are more likely to act with integrity, make ethical decisions, and create a positive impact on their followers and the organization as a whole. Fortunately, leader character is not fixed; it can be developed. In particular, leader character can be significantly enhanced through the utilization of feedback. In this guide, SIGMA’s leader character experts explain the importance of feedback, as well as how to collect, interpret, and apply feedback to create powerful leader character development plans.
The Importance of Feedback for Leader Character Development
Feedback is an essential part of personal and professional growth. It is the process of giving and receiving information about performance and behavior to improve oneself. Feedback is important because it helps individuals identify areas of strength and weakness and gives them an opportunity to reflect on their actions and make necessary changes to improve their performance.
Feedback can be gathered in various ways, such as in-person through individual or group meetings, or anonymously through surveys. The use of anonymous surveys can facilitate candid feedback from reviewers, especially when there is a power dynamic, such as when subordinates provide feedback to their superiors. In both of these cases, the feedback being given is personal and subjective. When it comes to abstract qualities such as leadership character, subjective feedback can present challenges, as an individual’s perception may be influenced by personal biases or limited interactions with the leader. To counter these challenges, it is crucial to incorporate objective feedback that is driven by data. The most effective way to achieve this is through the utilization of scientifically-validated assessments.
Leader Character Assessments
There are not many leader character assessments in the talent development space; organizations usually prefer to measure things like cognitive ability, or more tangible leadership skills. However, as we know, leader character is an essential component of effective leadership. That’s why SIGMA’s experts in test development have put together a scientifically validated assessment of leader character, the Leader Character Insight Assessment (LCIA). The LCIA offers a comprehensive and reliable method for gathering feedback on leader character. The assessment measures leader character across eleven dimensions and provides feedback on strengths and opportunities for growth. The LCIA and its corresponding Leader Report (view sample report) were specifically designed to help individuals develop their leader character and become more effective leaders.
Learning from Your LCIA Leader Report
Following the completion of the LCIA you will receive a personalized report with your results. This report can feel overwhelming due to the amount of information presented, and you may not know where to start. This guide will teach you how to interpret the feedback from your LCIA report and identify the most significant insights that are personally relevant to you to effectively develop your character.
Leader Character Improvement in 7 Steps
Step 1: Review your LCIA report several times.
The LCIA report has 37 pages of in-depth information, so most people won’t be able to remember all of the important information contained within. Fully comprehending the information in the report may require multiple readings. We recommend the following reading objectives, in order:
- The first time you open your report, scan the table of contents and understand the overall structure of the report.
- Next, read pages 2-5 of the report. These pages provide an introduction to the concept of character and explain how the LCIA measures it.
- Once you are comfortable with the structure of the report and how the LCIA measures character, advance to your results overview on page 6 to better understand your strengths and development opportunities on a dimensional level.
- Then, move on to the dimension pages that relate to your highest and lowest scores. Thoroughly examine these pages while taking careful notes.
- Read through your remaining dimensions pages, with a less rigorous lens than you used when looking at your highest and lowest scores.
- We recommend you read the appendices last, including the graphs about peer comparisons. Observe and compare your leadership character profile with the benchmark to identify similarities and differences.
Step 2: Be open-minded about your feedback.
The feedback in your report could provide a new perspective on your character, one that may differ from your own preconceived notions. For example, you might think of yourself as a very courageous person, more than the average leader, but your report might show your courage score as being closer to average than you previously believed.
When you encounter mismatches like this between your perception of yourself and your report results, it’s important to consider these differences with an open mind. Your report compares your results against a diverse sample of leaders, so it usually offers a more accurate assessment of how you compare to the average leader than your self-perception. The feedback you receive may be surprising, and that is perfectly normal. On the other hand, the assessment may also reveal facets of yourself that you have not previously thought about before. That is normal as well.
Change as a result of feedback only happens when people are open to new ideas and willing to consider that the image, they have of themselves may be biased and less accurate than the findings of the report. To make the most of the developmental feedback in your LCIA report, try to approach new and unexpected results with curiosity, rather than immediately rejecting them.
Step 3: Take time to process all the information.
Given the multitude of commitments and responsibilities vying for your attention, you might find it difficult to carve out the necessary time to reflect on your report. However, we recommend that you set aside a period of committed attention to process the information in your report after you have read it. Digesting the information will take focus and it isn’t something you can easily do when your attention is divided. We recommend scheduling multiple 15-minute blocks in your day to reflect on what you read.
The Importance of Processing LCIA Report Findings
Taking time to process all of your LCIA report findings before acting on them is crucial. If you do not allow yourself sufficient time to process the information in the report before acting, you might jump to inaccurate conclusions about yourself and your areas of development. It’s important to pause for as long as you need before you respond to the report.
Step 4: Get your questions answered.
You will likely have a few questions or points of clarification after you finish thoroughly reading and reflecting on the information in your report. If you haven’t already made a list of questions after reading the report initially, ensure that you take some time to collect your thoughts and summarize all of your remaining questions.
Once you have a list of questions prepared, we recommend that you contact an LCIA expert. They may be someone at your organization, such as your manager, an expert in human resources who is trained in using the LCIA, or a coach who can answer your questions. If you are in the process of learning about the LCIA yourself to help train others, we recommend that you contact us directly, and get in touch with the specialists in character assessment at SIGMA. It can be helpful to contact an external third party because they are less biased and more objective than someone who works with you closely and may have pre-formed assumptions about your character.
When speaking with SIGMA’s character experts, be sure to inquire about everything that is on your mind. No question is too unimportant to be asked, especially when it comes to something as crucial as your personal and professional development.
Step 5: Pick one development area to work on first.
After gaining a clearer understanding of the development areas in your report and resolving any questions you may have, we suggest choosing a single area of development to focus on initially.
SIGMA’s recommendation to address one aspect of your character at a time is founded on research in habit formation. When individuals try to make too many lifestyle changes at once, such as trying to get better sleep, cooking more often, or exercising daily, they often give up and get discouraged quickly, preventing meaningful change from taking place. Working on too many things at once can feel overwhelming and isn’t conducive to habit change. Instead, a sustainable and realistic way of changing your usual tendencies is to note just one small thing you want to change and find a way of implementing that change every day until it becomes a routine habit. You may have experienced greater success in fulfilling your New Year’s resolutions when they have been more realistic and focused on a single goal, such as establishing a regular sleep schedule.
In the same vein, we encourage you to pick just one character dimension to work on first. Selecting the first dimension to address may be influenced by various factors, so we recommend that you take into account the following considerations:
- Is this a dimension that is important for my career goals or my role?
- Have I received feedback or had experiences that indicate this is a growth opportunity?
- Is this a strength that I admire in others?
- Am I motivated to make changes on this dimension?
The more you are able to answer “yes” to the questions above, the more we encourage you to prioritize that particular character dimension to work on first. Once you’ve identified a development opportunity to focus on, our Development Opportunity Worksheet is an effective tool to help you explore this opportunity in more detail. By taking some time to reflect on your current development opportunities and brainstorming some changes you could make, you will be better able to set goals related to the changes you’d like to make and how you plan to achieve them.
Note: If the judgment dimension is one of your lowest scores, we strongly suggest that you prioritize improving your judgment before any other dimension. Judgment is at the center of the character model (see Figure 1), the foundational leader character framework upon which the LCIA is built. Judgment has cascading effects, which can improve every other dimension as well. For more information, read our blog, Why Judgement is Central to Leader Character.
Figure 1. LCIA Leader Character Model; 11 dimensions with Judgment at the center.
Step 6: Create a leadership development plan.
Now that you have selected a dimension to develop, it is time to create a development plan to clearly outline the steps necessary to make this change. To address Step 6 of this guide, we encourage you to download and follow SIGMA’s step-by-step resource, the “Leader Character Development Plan.”
While you are creating your development plan, focus on setting SMART goals. SMART goals are goals that are specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-bound:
One common mistake that people make during a period of change is to completely quit if they have forgotten to act on their new behavior for a day or two. They think to themselves, “Well, if I’ve already slipped up once or twice, I may as well give up entirely!” It’s best to avoid this all-or-nothing thinking and accept that mistakes happen. If you have a few moments where you slip back to your old habits, it doesn’t mean you haven’t made any progress at all. Just continue the next day with your plan as usual.
Step 7: Regularly revisit and adjust your leadership development plan as needed.
Your work responsibilities change all the time, so your priorities should also change in response. For example, perhaps you get a promotion to a position that requires more teamwork than before, and you will be required to exercise more collaborative skills than before. You may need to shift the objective of your development plan to work on collaboration rather than on your previous priority.
Your character may also be changing. For example, you may be making progress on your initial goal more quickly than you anticipated. In this case it would be both appropriate and helpful to shift your development efforts towards your next priority; select another dimension on which you also scored below-average and create a development plan for working on this dimension.
The Ongoing Process of Leader Character Development
Leadership development is an ongoing process that requires personal accountability. Warren Bennis, an American consultant, emphasized this when he said, “The leader never lies to himself, especially about himself, knows his flaws as well as his assets, and deals with them directly. You are your own raw material. When you know what you consist of and what you want to make of it, then you can invent yourself.”[i] Developing leadership character requires self-awareness and a willingness to examine habitual behaviors. However, it also requires an openness to feedback and a willingness to reflect upon constructive criticism. In addition to self-awareness, it is imperative that leaders cultivate a commitment to continuous self-improvement based on the input of others. This guide has provided a comprehensive process for utilizing feedback to develop leader character. We encourage you to invest the time and energy to put these steps into practice. Without the discipline and courage to assess yourself honestly, you will limit your potential for growth as a leader.
Ready to Get Started?
If you are ready to begin your leader character development journey with the LCIA, visit SIGMA’s website to learn more about the assessment and to place an order. If you would like to speak with an expert to better understand your results and set personalized development goals, we encourage you to schedule a coaching session with one of our dedicated character coaches. During these sessions, a SIGMA coach will work with you one-on-one in a confidential environment to help you understand your report, set attainable character development goals, and measure your progress towards achieving those goals. If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to contact us below. We are always happy to chat.
Speak with an Expert
Ruby Nadler has a Ph.D in Cognition and Perception, as well as specific training in mindfulness and positive psychology. She brings this expertise to SIGMA’s executive coaching programs. In 2015 she was awarded a two-year Ontario Centers of Excellence TalentEdge Fellowship, and her research has been featured on CBC, BBC Radio, Happify, and NPR. Call or email Ruby — she would be happy to answer questions about the LCIA, leader character, or coaching.
[i] Rifkin, G. (2014, August 1). Warren G. Bennis, Scholar on Leadership, Dies at 89. The New York Times. https://www.nytimes.com/2014/08/02/business/warren-g-bennis-scholar-on-leadership-dies-at-89.html