Mastering Feedback

I’ve been discussing the art of receiving feedback. This is key for leaders because organizations need to respond with agility to changing market needs, and in order to do so people must be able to shift and change frequently.

Today’s businesses need to be continually learning through feedback loops, none more important than those that happen during conversations about change.

But receiving feedback is hard. We don’t always accept it because we don’t like hearing we need to change. Humility isn’t a universal trait.

Authors Douglas Stone and Sheila Heen in Thanks for the Feedback: The Science and Art of Receiving Feedback Well  (Penguin Books, 2014) suggest that no matter what, leaders should find something right in the feedback they hear, rather than rejecting it outright.

Grow despite unfair feedback.

Personal growth may be the last thing to think about after receiving negative feedback. Instead of seeing unfair remarks as a setback, choose to view them as an opportunity to grow smarter, stronger and wiser. The following strategies can help:

  • Filter input. Which information is credible? Which feedback strains credulity? Discard comments you believe to be invalid, using some type of objective measuring stick.
  • Try to see the feedback giver’s perspective. People have reasons for making statements. Depersonalize their comments to isolate nuggets of truth.
  • Identify your blind spots, and do something about them. If you receive similar feedback from multiple sources, there’s likely something you’re not seeing. Rely on a close circle of trusted advisors to set your perspectives straight.
  • Be mindful of your historic response patterns. Others see them even if you don’t. Assess your emotions soberly to determine if they’re justified. Ask for feedback from people you trust. Alternatively, engage a professional coach to help you discover what you can’t see by yourself.

We make conscious choices when dealing with feedback:

  • We can be learners or rejecters.
  • We can grow or get upset.
  • We can listen or ignore.
  • We can be open to seeing ourselves for who we are and who we might become, or we can be comfortable with the status quo.
  • We can establish boundaries and recognize unfairness, or we can accept all statements as criticism.

Making positive choices confers many benefits, including improved self-esteem, aspirations, satisfaction, relationships, trust, accountability, emotional well-being, accomplishment-based thinking, workplace culture and organizational contribution.

These rewards will carry over into your personal life as well. Great leaders keep their emotions in check, appropriately respond to feedback and appreciate the gift of knowledge they receive.

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

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