Honest feedback is a priceless gift whether the nature of the information is positive or negative. Positive feedback makes us feel awesome. Negative feedback gives us information about where we can grow. But any feedback, let alone honest feedback can be impossible for leaders to obtain. It can be hard for direct reports to communicate feedback in a direct way. But leadership without good feedback, can be lonely at best and ineffective at worst.
A few years ago, I made a pact with myself to become a person who embraces feedback, whether positive or negative. I’m still at it, honestly, but I’ve grown a lot in this area.
Here are five practices that helped:
- Listen. Listen. Listen. I’m of the opinion that we could all use a little tune-up in this area, especially with the amount of information that passes our eyes and desks in a given day. Good listening requires constant attention to the words and the tone of those around us. It can be hard to slow down and truly hear what people are saying but we learn so much from it.
- Say it and make it true. Telling people “I welcome feedback on this”, kind of means you have to actually welcome feedback. So say that phrase, or something like it, often and then be the kind of person who follows through on it.
- View negative feedback first as information. Don’t take it personally and allow yourself to react defensively. This is a hard one for me. Nobody wants to hear that something they are doing is not “right.” I used to think the goal in life was to never make a mistakes (Ha!) and I dreaded negative feedback. Now I remind myself that feedback is first and foremost a piece of information. It may or may not be accurate. It may not be something I can change. But my first responsibility is to hear it and take it in. And then I can respond carefully.
- Let feedback prompt action. Whether positive or negative, feedback should prompt us to act. We might just need to say, “Thank you for this feedback. I will consider it.” Or we might need to ask for a broader opinion on that topic. Regardless of the needed action, feedback is an ongoing conversation that prompts us to adjust, move forward, and if we let it, shapes us into better leaders.
- Give good feedback. If we give good feedback, we are more likely to get good feedback in return and we foster a working environment where good communication flourishes. Feedback should be honest, specific, and direct. We might have thoughts about a lot of things but if we can’t be specific and share directly with the person who needs it, our feedback can become another source of noise without much impact. As we learn to give helpful feedback, we’re more likely to get helpful feedback in return.
What are your best tips for learning to embrace feedback? What can be a road block to receiving feedback as a leader?
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