Embracing Feedback: five practices to adopt

andreavernola —  April 2, 2013 — 6 Comments


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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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? 

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at  FreeDigitalPhotos.net



Andrea Vernola is the Children's Programming Librarian at Kalamazoo (MI) Public Library, where she coordinates innovative preschool and school age programming for five locations. She also serves on library-wide committees like the Digital Action and Innovation Teams. Prior to landing the perfect job at KPL, Andrea earned her MLIS from University of Milwaukee-Wisconsin in 2007 and worked for 5 years at Woodstock (IL) Public Library. At WPL, Andrea did a little bit of everything. In 2010, Andrea was a participant in Synergy: the Illinois Library Leadership Institute. Andrea is a member of ALA and ALSC and is currently serving on the ALSC Children and Technology Committee. When Andrea's not librarian-ing, she is making every moment count with her family in the Mitten state. You can follow Andrea on Twitter at @librarianandi.

6 responses to Embracing Feedback: five practices to adopt


    #3 (feedback as information) is an especially valid way to process feedback–I like how you’ve framed it.

    I try to manage expectations when I’ve asked for feedback. Not all feedback can be acted upon but it’s important to communicate it was heard and taken into consideration.


      Yes. So important to affirm that the feedback was received! Being a good receiver of feedback means you’ll get more feedback, which means more information and tools for success.


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Trackbacks and Pingbacks:

  1. Great summary of feedback tips | The Feedback Project - April 5, 2013

    […] I wish I’d written.” Today’s example is Andrea Vernola’s post “Embracing Feedback” on the great new library leadership blog Library Lost & […]

  2. Favorites of 2013 | Library Lost & Found - December 31, 2013

    […] Embracing Feedback: Five Practices to Adopt […]

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