On this blog, we talk a great deal about how you, as a leader, can provide better feedback—that gets results—without busting employees’ morale. Today, I want to talk to you about how you, as a new leader, can become much better at receiving feedback.
After all, chances are your boss, HR and maybe even your employees will have a great deal to say about your performance, especially early on. While it’s never easy to hear criticism, even negative feedback is critical to your growth and development as a leader. So you must be able to listen to it with an open mind, accept it and act on it.
So first, ask yourself:
- Am I always open to the feedback?
- Do I see it as an opportunity to improve?
- Or do I tend to be apprehensive, defensive or even angry when I hear it?
Be honest. Doing so is the first step toward learning how to use feedback, no matter how critical, in a positive way to improve your leadership skills. Now, that you’ve thought a little about how you currently receive feedback, make sure you follow this advice to make the most of those feedback sessions:
Be open minded
When someone offers you feedback, be it in a formal or informal setting, keep an open mind. Recognize that however poorly it’s delivered, or however angry it makes you initially, remind yourself to keep an open mind. Without an open mind, the rest of the steps are meaningless.
Suspend judgment and depersonalize the experience
Often people are defensive from the start of the conversation, or they become that way as soon as they hear something negative. Even if comments are framed as a personal attack, you can choose to suspend judgment until you have fully listened to the person and consider the other side. It’s not always easy to do, but it is a skill you must master.
Ask clarifying questions
Perhaps the lesson is hidden, or perhaps the other person’s message isn’t clear. Rather than getting upset, choose to ask some questions. When you ask questions to better understand other people’s perspective and their feedback, you gain specific details on how to improve your performance.
Ask for their advice
Feedback is often given about past performance. While you can’t change the past, you can change the future. At some point in the conversation, ask the other person for advice. Say something like:
- “What would you have done differently?”
- “What would you like me to do next time?”
- “How should I handle this if it happens again?”
- “Can you provide more specific details about what you would like to see me do differently?”
- “What exactly do you want to see me change?”
That shows that you are willing to make the needed adjustments going forward.
Look for the lesson
Perhaps you disagree with the people offering feedback. Or perhaps their feedback is only their perspective, and it isn’t shared by the five other people that told you something different or even contrary. Regardless, make it your goal to always look for the golden nugget inside of the feedback. Even if it is well hidden, you can find the lesson.
Say “Thank you”
Most of the time, when people offer feedback, they have the best intentions. They really just want to help. Even if you can tell another person is simply being spiteful, always say “Thank you” for taking the time to help you do a better job. Being truly grateful will help you process the feedback, and it shows the other person that you can be mature and professional, even when being criticized. It shows that you are in control and motivated to improve, and those are two qualities every great leader possesses.
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