For Leaders, Feedback Is The Breakfast of Champions

This post was written by Liz Ford ’18

Feedback is the breakfast of champions. Feedback is a gift. Without feedback, leaders are cut off from the lifeblood of an organization and their ideas and abilities will wither and die. These are the words of Joe Fusco, Chair of The Sustainable Innovation MBA Advisory Board and leadership coach to our cohort.

Every other week we meet with Joe for the program’s Leadership Seminar, and even though it’s an optional supplement to our other rigorous coursework, everyone shows up ready to listen.

We spend a lot of time in the program filling our minds with financial equations, S.W.O.T. analyses and Organizational Behavior terminology – preparing to be the executives of the organizations of tomorrow. The leadership seminar is different: Joe helps us go beyond our textbooks to look at what true leadership really means.

Joe helps us to examine what our heads, hearts and hands are doing on a daily basis and how these cognitive, emotional and physical practices and abilities are impacting others. Impact is the key. It doesn’t matter our intentions: what matters is the effect that our actions have on others.

The best way to assess our impact is to be open to receiving feedback. Feedback allows us to see the difference between our intents and impacts, and work on closing the gap.

However, being open to feedback isn’t easy and it means addressing the natural — and sometimes quite strong — defensiveness that can pop up when hearing things about ourselves that don’t jibe with our own internal assessments.

Leadership Seminar has no grades and no required homework, which makes what we volunteered to do for Joe even more striking. He challenged us to complete two difficult assignments. One: come up with a list of 25 strengths and 25 weaknesses that we bring to the table as leaders. Two: ask someone who knows us well to create the same list for us, and then sit with them while they read it out loud.

The impact? As scary as this assignment seemed, it made each and every one us more receptive to learning about the behaviors and skills we need to work on in order to become more effective leaders. This lies at the heart of what we all came to The Sustainable Innovation MBA to learn.

Wake up every morning and get hungry for a big bowl of feedback, folks. It’s the breakfast of champions.