I remember getting the results of my 360-feedback survey. I must admit that some of the comments made me feel uncomfortable. I was a senior manager at the time and was feeling good about what I had accomplished to that point. However, as I look back, my confidence was based on my subject matter (i.e. marketing and communications) knowledge and experience. By contrast, the constructive feedback I received was focused on my soft skills such as conflict management, listening and empathy.

I discussed the results with my manager, and I shared my feelings about the comments. He helped me to realize that there was a difference between how I perceived my skills and how others experienced my skills. It was at that moment that I realized that I had work to do. In other words, I was faced with a choice: I could stay where I was or I could get out of my comfort zone and challenge myself to grow and evolve as a person and as a professional.

My HR Business Partner was a great resource to help me start the process of digging deep into the 360 results and developing an action plan. A key element of the plan was to work with an executive coach to develop my soft skills. I was fortunate that my employer had a relationship with a consultant that provided leadership training and 1:1 executive coaching services.

Although I was apprehensive about the idea of discussing my “opportunities for improvement” with someone else, I soon realized that this was a great opportunity to get the perspective of an objective third party. To be clear: this was not therapy or a chance to convince another person that I’m right and the other people at work are wrong. Rather, it was a chance to discuss real-life situations and develop ways to achieve progress.

For example, I’ve always struggled with dealing with conflicts with a colleague or a member of my team. My executive coach helped me to see the situation from the other person’s perspective, including their goals and preferred methods of receiving and processing information. This was a real breakthrough for me, and it has helped me every day since. It turns out that progress can be made once we have the courage to acknowledge that we need help to go forward.

Chris is Principal of Medici Consulting Services, Inc., a branding, marketing and communications consulting business. He has more than 25 years of professional experience, encompassing a diverse range of sectors and markets including government, health care, law, financial services, and energy.

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