Feedback is important as we all know. Both giving it obviously and perhaps less obviously the manner in which we choose to receive it. We all know that giving effective feedback is important and a valuable leadership skill worth developing. Less is said about receiving it though. People are often resistant to receiving developmental feedback, especially if coming from somebody they have had a difficult relationship with. We can however, develop the skill to receive it within ourselves, to the point where we can take positives and worthwhile developmental feedback even when it has been badly delivered.
How To Receive Feedback…
1. By raising our awareness of our own typical behaviour or reaction in given situations. This is far easier said than done as it requires huge self awareness and a level of objectivity about self that few truly possess. However, if I always react with inward derision when say Jeff the manager says anything, then feedback from Jeff tends to be met with the same derision. If I can raise my awareness of this tendency and then try to filter it out when Jeff gives me feedback, then I stand to gain from any valid points he may make as I’ll be open to actually receiving them.
2. It is quite possible that somebody I don’t like can give me effective feedback which I reject out of hand because of who they are. Pretty much all our interactions with others are subtle status transactions. Therefore, it’s important to try to separate message from messenger as best we can. I should try giving myself the relevant feedback in advance of meeting up and as though I were Jeff – What is he likely to say? Why? Based on what? How accurate a reflection do I think that is? Remember that we actively choose to like or not like individuals and consequently that colours how we view communication with those people.
3. Establish dialogue and ask questions about the communication and message you’ve received. Get to the specifics of what has been observed and what specific changes are being requested. That way, you’re far more likely to discover any positives to take away. What was said or done? What was the consequence of that action? Was it all positive or negative? How would you suggest things could be done more effectively? Using simple open questions and a coaching approach will elicit the specifics
4. Ask for feedback informally throughout the year instead of waiting for the annual appraisal or performance review. That way you get bite sized bits of feedback, which are far easier to swallow than than one big load annually and you can act on them straight away which should then improve relationships and results. By taking this approach you’ll come across as appropriately proactive and wanting to learn which generally goes down well too.
We have all received feedback numerous times, regardless of how effectively it was communicated. There is real responsibility for leaders to create a culture where people are mindful of how they receive it as well.
Sartaj Garewal is the founder of Dynamic Presenting – a creative, leadership development consultancy, adapting theatre training to create leadership programs for business.
Dynamic Presenting – Enabling Powerful Communication