I am a newly promoted senior VP of sales for the North American division of a medical devices manufacturer. My boss is a new COO brought in from the outside. He lives in Germany and I live in Colorado, although I am on the road constantly.
I’ve met this guy only once and he shared almost zero information about himself. I went to LinkedIn to find out more, but there’s not much information there, either.
I have no idea what his plans are for sales—all he told me is to keep the numbers up and it’s all good. I don’t have a clue how I am doing in his eyes. I’ve asked for feedback but his response on the last monthly report I sent him was—I am not kidding—one word: “Good.” What should I do? The silence is killing me.
Dear Need Feedback,
Welcome to senior leadership—the land of no feedback. You’ve heard it’s lonely at the top? This is why. The only feedback you may get is how your people are doing vis-a-vis goals. Everything else you’ll have to provide for yourself.
Just like you, your new boss has a big new job and he’s trying to figure out how to win. You’re keeping your numbers where they need to be, so right now you’re the least of his worries. I would say the fact that you got a response at all is positive—and the response itself is probably high praise coming from someone who plays his cards that close to the vest. You are a warm, extroverted communicator; he is a private, introverted, analytical type. Don’t take his style personally.
What exactly are you worried about? Did your old boss give you a lot of feedback? If you need to know how well you are doing, check in with your people. Ask them what you could do more of or less of. Ask them what they think you should start doing or stop doing. Ask them if there is anything they think you should know. Ask them what you could do to help them be more successful.
If you need more affirmation, develop a relationship with your counterparts in other regions. Build your network of peers so that you have a sense of how you are doing in relation to them. It’s not that I am big fan of comparison per se, but this will give you at least a bit of a reality check.
Finally, do anything you can to spend more time with your new boss. Include him in your travels. Show up at any and all leadership team meetings. Keep communicating with him, and keep up the good work. And relax. When he has feedback for you, you’ll hear it.
About the author
Madeleine Homan-Blanchard is a master certified coach, author, speaker, and cofounder of Blanchard Coaching Services. Madeleine’s Advice for the Well Intentioned Manager is a regular Saturday feature for a very select group: well intentioned managers. Leadership is hard—and the more you care, the harder it gets. Join us here each week for insight, resources, and conversation.
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