At least it is according to Ken Blanchard, author, leadership expert and coach. And we agree - as do athletic champions! If you study championship athletes, you’ll find that not only do they appreciate feedback, but they seek it out from their coaches, teammates, other experts in their field and by watching videos of their own performance. They are committed to getting better, even if it’s by a fraction of a second (which sometimes wins gold medals!) and figure out how they can improve their own game, enhance team performance and be better than their competitors’.
The same is true for great leaders. Great leaders are open to – even thrive on – feedback. Great leaders then take that feedback and act on it so they and their organizations can continue to get better and flourish. They don’t operate from old adages such as, “If ain’t broke, don’t fix it” or “I’m already at the top of my game.” They are hungry for that next level of success for themselves and for their team so that everyone wins.
But receiving feedback is not easy. As human beings, we are wired to protect ourselves. The feedback that can help us get better inherently implies something is not good enough. So, we naturally want to protect ourselves from looking bad, disappointing someone (including ourselves), or being rejected. Instead, we have to shift our view of feedback, change our mindset, and practice non-verbal and verbal must do’s to truly hear the feedback as it is intended so it can make a real difference for us.
- Shift your perception related to feedback. Whether feedback is solicited or proactively given to you, ensure you’re entering the conversation with the right mindset. Feedback is a gift, even if it is not easy to hear. One of the most valuable gifts you can receive is feedback from someone who is willing to take the time, has the courage (because we all know it’s not easy to deliver feedback!) and values and respects you enough to deliver that feedback to you. They care about your success and want you to win.
Sometimes we hear that leaders at all levels feel they don’t receive enough feedback – or specific enough feedback to know that they’re on the right track or what shifts they need to make in their performance. If that is you, ask! Use a simple keep, stop, start approach and invite people you trust to be honest with you to share:
- What is working in my performance that I should keep doing? (things you’re doing well or that are of great value)
- What isn’t working in my performance that I should stop doing? (things that aren’t working or things you need to give up, delegate or relinquish)
- What should I start doing that I am not yet doing? (things that will benefit you, our team or the firm if I were to start doing it going forward)
You can use this approach with a supervisor, after an engagement or project or mid-year check-in, with clients, on boards or even family! For additional ideas on asking for feedback, ready my colleague Renee Moelder’s blog Ask and You Shall Receive Feedback.
Practice effective non-verbal communications to ensure you’re portraying that you’re open to the feedback. During a feedback conversation, pay attention to what your body posture and facial expressions are communicating to the other person so that you are not inadvertently pushing them away or shutting them down with unconscious non-verbal cues like scrunching your face in shock, opening your mouth and raising your eyebrows in disbelief, crossing your arms showing resistance, or looking at your watch hoping they’ll move on. Consider practicing these body language best practices ideas instead:
- Uncross your arms, relax your hands and place them in your lap, by your side or poised to write notes
- Relax and lower your shoulders, straighten your back
- Give all parties in the room eye contact
- Relax your face and eyebrows, and project a slight smile
- Lean into the discussion, but not too much or you’ll seem like you’re trying to intimidate or invade the person’s space
- Nod your head as encouragement – but not too much
Your body posture and facial expressions say a lot more than we give them credit for (or pay attention to) and they directly impact the direction of the conversation. You can help navigate the conversation in a positive direction by practicing these non-verbal communication strategies.
- Practice question techniques and phrases that can help forward the conversation, too. Sometimes we struggle with what to say when receiving feedback. In feedback conversations, your primary job is to listen for understanding so that the other person feels heard. So, you don’t have to worry about saying a whole lot, but you do want to fully participate in the conversation and respond appropriately. In a feedback conversation, you can practice active listening techniques to keep it positive and moving forward:
- Clarify the feedback you’re receiving – paraphrase and echo back to be sure you’re getting it
- If you don’t understand or don’t like the feedback, ask the giver to clarify by saying, “Say more about that” or “Tell me more on that point”
- Use “I see,” “I understand,” and “I can appreciate that” to show you’re tracking without necessarily agreeing with the other party
- Avoid making the other party wrong – they are entitled to their viewpoint
- Look for ways you can change your behavior, actions or the situation itself and share them
- If there is a valid misunderstanding, provide additional information
Once you’ve had a chance to digest the feedback you received, be sure to act on it. Sometimes, you may need to acknowledge a mistake and shortcoming that occurred. It is appropriate to apologize in most cases. Generate some ideas for change or what you will do differently in the future and validate that it will work for the person who gave you the feedback.
Then, follow through with new behaviors or commitments you make - confirm your understanding and demonstrate your commitment to the change you discussed by drafting a written recap. Agree on how you will return and report progress to the person who gave you the feedback, and any other impacted parties.
Lastly, welcome the gift of feedback in the future! When you demonstrate your willingness and openness to receiving feedback, you’ll pave the way for others to be open to and receive feedback, too, allowing you and your team to transform and reach new heights of success.
What steps will you take to be more open to receiving feedback? Who can you invite feedback from today? We’d love to hear your successes or challenges in this area so we can all get better, so please post a comment and share!