Most collaborative efforts have some kind of feedback process. These range from informally reviewing what worked and could be done better to sophisticated lists of qualities against which your team and your bosses score your recent behavior. We have conducted thousands of feedback interviews for executives. Done well, hearing how people perceive us increases self awareness, motivation and results.

The challenge—despite countless endeavors to uncover it—is that there is no ideal way to behave that works for everyone. I may score high on empathy and low on addressing conflict. My colleague may score high on conflict and low on empathy. Both of us may still be an incredibly successful leaders (or seriously bad!).

How do you get actionable feedback that takes account of who we each uniquely are?

Your Unique Gift
Perhaps it would be more convenient if there were a standard, a perfectly articulated set of leadership qualities and behaviors guaranteed to make you inspiring and effective. It turns out, however, that—more than any objective quality or behavior—what makes for a great leader is someone who is completely and fully themselves. We are at our best when who we are in essence is expressed in living.

Therefore the most beneficial feedback will help a person understand his or her unique gift, where that gift is really landing for those around, and where its expression is blocked. Despite my personal passion for automating coaching processes previously thought to be matters of instinct or intuition, I have not yet found a way to delegate this ability to understand a person’s unique gift to machine intelligence.

Ask and Probe
The only way I found is to ask. So that is what I do. Before coaching a new client, I will spend hours finding out from his colleagues and loved ones how they see his or her gifts, strengths, talents, qualities and superpowers. I will ask the client, in several different ways, to tell me how she or he sees that for themselves. I will probe until I get a clear intuitive feeling in myself, and then keep checking that with how they perceive themselves.

Before a team development session, I will discover and feed back how each player sees the others’ gifts. The processes in our transformation retreats have people seeing themselves more clearly. When we use the Numina App, the very first session enables us to explore and be appreciated for who we are. The word “numina” is a real English word that means “your unique gift”. You cannot genuinely help someone until you have a bead on the unique gifts that make them who they are.

Attune Your Perception
Most people’s perception is more highly tuned to what a person does or does not do well. While that does give you clues, I am inviting you here to re-tune your perception to become fascinated with who people are: their essence, their impact and their destiny.

I am keen to hear your experience of developing your capacity to see others’ gifts and how that has helped you bring the best out of those around you.