A CEO that I admire told me today that I was out of line for asking a question of one of his company’s employees that I should have directed to him. It was a CEO-level communication that, as he made clear to me, had sent the wrong message.
I blog about this because after trying to remember the question I asked and conversation I was in, the discomfort I felt at his assertion, my need to understand how things work, and dealing with the realization I did something unintentional but out-of-line, it felt really good to get this feedback. I want to share the realization that it felt good to me to get direct, unvarnished feedback from someone I admire and from peer. He was right, I was out-of-line, and he was well within his rights to take me to the CEO woodshed.
After this experience, I came to appreciate my own observation that getting and giving feedback is a big part of the CEO experience, and people react variously to it. Some people are simply afraid of CEOs and getting this type of feedback; some people are simply bad at taking feedback and providing feedback, and some people are perfectly comfortable getting feedback and giving feedback.
My two favorite and consistent sources of feedback are other Black Duck board members, company advisors and members of the executive staff. (I personally love executive sessions at Black Duck board meetings, even though they are often rushed.)
Getting this new source of feedback was cathartic and ultimately, refreshing.