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Design Principle 4: Apply Self-regulation and Accept Feedback

Are you the leader of a business or organisation, responsible for driving the strategy and focus, while constantly juggling demands, managing day to day tasks, and potentially handling concerns and complaints? It’s easy to get caught up in the minutiae and become inward focussed or insular. We tend to mingle with people like us, socially and professionally, so our worldview and perspective can become limited. Once we are in the bubble, it is much harder to maintain a broad perspective of views and opinions. Taking the time to consciously self-reflect and monitor our own behaviour and actions can be challenging, but is a valuable exercise.

  1. It’s the way we have always done it.

Long-held methods of manufacturing, marketing, staff and customer interaction, or other processes may no longer meet the needs of the business or stakeholders. Change can be confronting and difficult, but stagnation is worse. If your customers are letting you know that they expect a better level of service, or new regulations require you to improve standards, then it is time to review the policies and practices before the situation becomes urgent. It could be a simple monthly or quarterly review, or it may require a deeper and more thoughtful analysis.

  1. Receiving feedback is an art.

There is a lot written about how to give feedback – most of us know the ‘sandwich’ method! Receiving feedback, no matter how helpful, constructive, and genuine, can be equally challenging. Our instinct is often to become defensive, to explain away the behaviour or offer mitigating circumstances or excuses. Instead, take a deep breath, and be prepared to think seriously about what has been said or shown to you. Is there something I could have done differently? Does my bluntness sometimes come across as rudeness? Is the waiting on hold time blowing out? Do I arrive on time for appointments or meeting? Am I doing the best job I can, or just enough to pass?

Sometimes there are circumstances beyond our control which mean that expectations have not been met. Sometimes criticism is not warranted. But often there is a gem of truth, which if we are prepared to examine it honestly can provide us with opportunities for learning and growth, both individually and as an organisation.

  1. Opportunities come with taking action.

Every business or organisation has responsibilities towards climate action and social equity. If your organisation is burrowing its head in the sand or denying that these complex issues are in any way related to your activities, then it is time to open your eyes to both the challenges, and the opportunities. Government regulation of reporting on greenhouse gas emissions, gender pay-gap, and modern slavery (amongst others) is becoming more stringent, so be prepared. Start researching your obligations or look for support programs that may be available to set you on the right path. Customers and stakeholders are also demanding action and making spending decisions based on environmental and social issues, so failing to act is to risk falling behind or losing your social licence to operate. Alternatively, being proactive could offer you a competitive advantage.

  1. Employee engagement and retention as an indicator of workplace health.

The value of a loyal workforce is difficult to quantify, but the cost of hiring and training new staff can be in the thousands. If your organisation has a high turnover rate, then it is time to look at what is going on, accept feedback, and plan to improve the situation. Especially at a time of high employment, employees can be choosy about where they work, and won’t accept poor pay or conditions for long. The importance of a healthy workplace culture cannot be overstated in this context. Employees want to feel that they are appreciated, and that their values are aligned with that of their employer. Offering opportunities for training, professional development, and career advancement, or acknowledging exceptional performance will help to retain your best people. Providing praise costs nothing, but constant criticism could cost you dearly!

  1. The leader is not always right!

We live in a hierarchical society, where questioning the leader(s) is seen as subversive behaviour. The flip side of this is the difficulty leaders may have in admitting when they have made a mistake, as it can escalate into calls for their resignation. As a leader, creating a culture where innovation and creativity are rewarded provides opportunities for all ideas to be on the table, not just those that are ‘right’ and encourages people to speak up and offer alternative perspectives, without fearing repercussions. The best ideas can come from unlikely places, so creating processes to gather input from all stakeholders can be a valuable exercise, as well demonstrating that your people are valued members of the organisation.

Accepting feedback and applying self-regulation can be challenging, but failing to embrace the process could lead to stagnation or missed opportunities. Alternatively, it could be just what you need to find new possibilities. Take the time to conduct an honest appraisal of your own, and your organisation’s performance. It could be helpful to engage with a mentor, or spend some time off site away from distractions to reflect and plan. Be brave!

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