4 Tips You Need to Know About Receiving Feedback

As a leader, it's hard to be told you are doing something wrong. However, the way you respond to feedback will define how much you and your organization will grow. Here are 4 tips you need to know about receiving feedback.

How to Effectively Receive Feedback

1. Focus on work, not your worth

Feedback will hurt if you take it as a personal hit.  It's far easier to take feedback if you direct it to your work.

Here's how you can direct feedback to your work.

Imagine if you were a department manager at your work. The department director shows up to your office one day and tells you that you aren't working fast enough. Instead of directing that feedback to your self-worth ("I'm such a slow person!"), direct it to the work itself ("I wonder what part of my process is slowing me down?”)

In this example, calling yourself "slow" is going to emotionally hurt, and it won't help you work faster. You'll strive to work faster while carrying around an anvil of discouragement. Instead, if you direct the feedback to the work itself, then you can change what you do without carrying around extra emotional baggage.

Here are some questions you should ask yourself after receiving feedback.

  • "What am I doing that is keeping me from meeting my superior's standard?"

  • "What can I change in my process to meet that standard?"

Always direct feedback to your work, not your worth. As you do this, feedback will hurt less and you'll grow faster from it.

Focus on changing "what you do" rather than "who you are." Character is harder to change than behavior. By changing "what you do," you'll also change "who you are" as a natural byproduct.


2. Get curious, not furious

"Get curious, not furious" is a popular saying in education. It's a powerful principle because getting mad at feedback will only shut it down. Since all teams need feedback in order to produce quality results, getting upset only frustrates cohesion. Instead, it's more effective to clarify feedback.

For example, say one of your employees tells you about a problem that you inadvertently caused. Getting mad at them will teach them that it's not safe to share feedback with you. Since you hold the keys to their salary, they'll keep silent at your expense.

A better way to react to feedback is to become curious. Try asking the following questions:

  • "Interesting. Why did you feel that way when ______ happened?"

  • "What solution do you propose to solve what you brought up?"

As you clarify feedback, you'll discover exactly what needs to be changed. You will also promote a more innovative and cohesive work environment.



3. Show gratitude, not annoyance

When a person brings an issue to you, show gratitude. For most people, feedback is very uncomfortable to give.

For example, imagine if you had an employee, Jim, who noticed a problem with a decision you made. Jim spends the next couple of days wondering if he should bring up the problem. He's worried that if he doesn't, the team will fail. But if he questions you, he might put his job into risk. Finally, he decides to talk to you about the problem.

Whether you agree with Jim or not, an effective way to respond to his concern is with a statement such as the following:

  • "Thank you for bringing that to my attention."

  • "I'm so grateful that you were willing to bring this up to me."

By showing gratitude, you encourage people to express concerns in the future without having to agree with them. Make it a goal today to always express your gratitude towards feedback.

"Receiving feedback with gratitude doesn't mean you have to apply the feedback. But, you should always help the other person feel grateful that they brought the point up to you."



4. Question your assumptions, not just the feedback

It's all too easy to reject feedback. You are, after all, the biggest supporter of your own ideas. But if you never question your ideas, you'll never see the flaws in them.

One example from organization research is a communication break down called Groupthink. Groupthink happens when a strong leader shuts down any dissent and people conform to the leader's ideas. This effect has lead to disasters, including Pearl Harbor and the Bay of Pigs Invasion. Organizations make incredibly poor decisions when decisions and ideas aren't questioned.

Instead of shutting down feedback, question your own ideas. Try asking yourself one of these questions.

  • "What really good points does the feedback bring up?"

  • "What flaws does this feedback reveal in how ______ is completed?"

By questioning yourself, you can avoid Groupthink and other organizational barriers that come from not looking beyond your own thinking. You will see the flaws in your own thinking and be wiser for it.


How to Effectively Give Feedback

Accepting feedback is difficult. So is giving feedback. To learn about how to give constructive feedback, go to "3 Effective Tips for Sharing Your Expert Advice."

To learn about how you can help yourself and the people around you break the status quo, read "How to Get Rid of the Status Quo Mindset."