Receiving Feedback: The Strong Force of Resistance

Receiving feedback well may be one of the most difficult things leaders can learn to do well yet it is key to successfully leading others and inspiring a culture of learning.

We generally don’t want to receive difficult information about ourselves, so we tend to avoid feedback and let issues go unresolved and challenges grow deeper. Staff is afraid to approach certain subjects, and trust and unity suffer.

Fortunately, leaders can learn to master emotional conflicts through coaching. Fears can be converted into strengths, thereby creating positive results.

Leaders must address four primary challenges to conquer their natural resistance to feedback, note Douglas Stone and Sheila Heen in Thanks for the Feedback: The Science and Art of Receiving Feedback Well  (Penguin Books, 2014):

  1. Listen and learn from what’s being said.
  2. Recognize and manage resistance to feedback.
  3. Be confident when challenged.
  4. Grow despite unfair feedback.

In my next few posts, I’ll share with you more about these four challenges to feedback. In this post, I’ll focus on the first.

  1. Listen and learn.

As you receive feedback, consider the positive side of the coin. There’s always something to learn about yourself, and the person providing feedback is trying to help—not hurt—you. This attitude doesn’t come naturally. Work toward picturing a collective interest in making things better, which will help minimize any stigma.

Focusing on personal and organizational improvement can help you overcome resistance, despite any fears or anxieties. Negative feelings needn’t override your ability to learn from feedback. View feedback through the lens of excelling and improving.

When assessing feedback, note that people say and interpret things differently. They use different verbiage and phrases. What’s heard may not be what’s meant. Asking questions helps achieve clarity. Taking sufficient time before you respond will afford an information-sharing dialogue. You’ll be rewarded with a new perspective, some of the best learning you can receive. There may be something you’re ready to see now that you couldn’t accept in the past.

What has been your experience learning from feedback? I’d love to hear from you. I can be reached via my website, on LinkedIn, and on Twitter.

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