A few years ago, a colleague of mine gave me some feedback. People around the business thought I was very unfriendly and unapproachable. As a senior business leader, it was not a great perception to have and he recommended that I needed to work on changing it.
Even though I was shocked by the feedback. I needed to address it. I asked for feedback from people outside of my department and it confirmed that this perception existed.
Through that process, I learned a couple of things about myself. I am extremely shy and also introverted. When I tell people this they don’t believe me but it’s true. I find it extremely difficult, for example, to walk up to someone just to say hello. People misunderstood that and assumed I was unfriendly.
Well I worked on it ( and it was hard) starting with my team and then branching into the rest of the company and by the time I moved into my next role, the feedback had changed significantly.
A few lessons from this: Feedback when given can be very powerful when acted upon. I believe that the feedback made me a better, more empathetic leader. Never underestimate the impact you have on the people around you. No matter where you are in your career, your behavior can impact people around you positively or negatively and unknowingly! Lastly, it’s important not to make assumptions about people. Always ask to understand. When people who thought I was unapproachable, approached me and had a conversation with me, they would always say “you are not like what we thought”. My reply? You never asked.