Are you a Professional Trapped in a Feedback Bubble?
How to receive real feedback from people in your life. Know the difference between people who are real and telling you what you want to hear.
You are probably asking yourself, “What exactly is a celebrity bubble?” As an executive coach, I have a unique perspective on the way one celebrity receives feedback from their support team. What I have learned and wish to share should be a forewarning for any leader and manager.
Two of my clients work for the same celebrity. I hear how they communicate with their boss. I also notice how they protect themselves in every interaction. As bubbles exist in many professional circumstances, do you hear these statements, or similar things, being said about you from your staff?
“I agree with her, even when she’s being crazy” or “I tell her what I think she wants to hear.”
“I’ve known her for many years, we grew up in the same area, she thinks we are her friends, we are not friends, she is my boss.”
“I spend most of my time quietly nodding agreement to everything.”
We all have an idea of the long-term results this type of feedback bubble will cause. My two clients are slowly removing this “leader” from her day-to-day reality. We can offer many examples of this “out of reality” state, such as Tom Petty’s or Prince’s toxicology reports and Britney Spears’ public meltdown in 2007.
In a bubble, the consequences of actions do not have normal repercussions. For example, a celebrity (or leader) may believe they are right about something and then take action accordingly. After all, the people around them, who celebrities pay to support them, are giving positive feedback and thumbs up, “they can’t all be wrong, can they?” Chaos then ensues when the results of actions taken are not rooted in reality. Even worse, a lone honest dissenter within an entourage would be in a bad professional place if they disagreed with the “bubble mentality.”
Given this state of “reality,” it’s easy to see how drugs in the systems of dead celebrities are off the charts. The same people offering the drugs are the ones telling them “it’s fine if you want more.” Or in this environment celebrities like Britney Spears have mental breakdowns. If all the feedback we get is positive and correlating actions do not achieve positive results, we will begin to question everything and everyone around us in a paranoid state.
It’s important for any leader to analyze the support system around them. Here are a few proven ways to burst the bubble:
1. Are the people around you paid to be honest or to agree with you? Do they receive incentives on the performance of actual business results or the favor they curry with you, their leader? Conversely, do you as a leader give honest rewards not just to your pets?
2. Get in the habit of asking a non-leading question of your team like, “What would you do in that scenario?” Or ask for anecdotal or empirical evidence to support opinions. Ensure you are leading the staff’s thinking more than deciding for them. This takes a good amount of trust in those around you. If this seems hard, it may be time to shift your team’s makeup. After all, your team should be running the ship while you are just the captain pointing the direction.
3. Place boundaries between you and your staff. It’s okay to be friendly; but remember, they are not your close friends, they are your staff. Seek out the proper professional friends such as mentors, coaches (as they are paid to be hard on you and honest), peers, and actual friends. Set up regular coffees, lunches, or drinks with them to keep yourself grounded in reality. Bounce your thinking and decisions off them and in doing so, second guess the feedback your team gives you. Listen to their problems and hear about the decisions they are struggling through. This can make leadership far less lonely.
4. Find ways to challenge your own feedback system to uncover or weed out the “yes men/women.” Having staff blindly agree can feel like a good thing, but make sure your team is thinking and being critical in carrying out your ideas or challenging in a collaborative way. Knowing “the gossip” or having a mole in the group may not be the worst thing for an honest feedback system.
Popping the bubble can be a challenge for some. It requires a change of habits and an ability to gain an outside perspective. Any leader should be able to burst their bubble with a little practice and help from the right people.