Continuing our focus on ‘The Gift of Giving & Receiving Feedback’ this week, I reflect on some of my more painful growth edges—when I’ve truly taken to heart difficult feedback. Enabling me to sit with and grow from the feedback is my trust in the intentions of those providing me with the feedback, and knowing they care about me and my greater good.
At times, it’s been painful to see myself through their lens. But, when I ‘ve been able to it has always motivated me to change something about how I am in relationship with them. I am clear about my values and purpose. So, when my behavior or words are not aligned with them I take action. And, when I do not trust the intentions of those providing me with feedback I become defensive, I shut down and protect myself. No growth really comes out of these situations. I’m aware and work on being open to receiving feedback on how I impact others. It is not always easy to do. I fail often but keep trying.
This is part 2 in the 5-part series on the Art of Receiving Feedback by Diana Gabriel, Certified Strengths Strategy Coach.You can learn a lot from sitting with the feedback you receive. Click To Tweet
Receiving feedback may be one of the most difficult things authentic leaders learn to do well, yet it is key to successfully leading others and inspiring an open culture of learning.
Being on the receiving end of unpleasant observations and opinions from your people can be hurtful and hard to take. The need for approval and acceptance is human and universal, so we instinctively move toward enjoyable encounters and away from those that are difficult.
We are wired to avoid unsettling issues and, consciously or unconsciously, will avoid hurt, discomfort or pain. These natural survival traits drive you away from the feedback loop that is so necessary for your growth as a leader.
Hence, most leaders unconsciously resist feedback, even when they verbalize or believe they are open to it—a continuing leadership challenge. As leaders, you struggle with receiving difficult information about yourself, so issues go unresolved and challenges grow deeper. When your people become afraid to approach certain subjects, trust and unity suffer.
Fortunately, you can learn to manage your resistance to receiving feedback through coaching. Fears can be converted into strengths, thereby creating positive results.
Four Challenges to Receiving Feedback
Leaders must address four primary challenges to manage their natural resistance to feedback, note Doulas Stone and Sheila Heen in Thanks for the Feedback: The Science and Art of Receiving Feedback Well (Penguin Books, 2014):
- Listen and learn from what’s being said.
- Recognize and manage your resistance to feedback.
- Being grounded and confident when challenged.
- Learn to Grow despite unfair feedback.
In my next few posts, I’ll share with you more about these four challenges to feedback.
Listen and learn
As you receive feedback, listen for the nugget of truth—there’s always something to learn about yourself. Assume the person providing feedback is trying to help—not hurt—you, a mindset that doesn’t come naturally. Trust that everyone on your team is working toward making things better for the sake of the greater good.
Focusing on personal and organizational improvement can help you overcome resistance, despite your fears or anxieties. View feedback through the lens of quality improvement and excelling.
It’s important to remember the purpose of feedback. Avoid retreating into defense-mode; it’s not about your character taking a hit. Try to stand in the shoes of the feedback provider and remember that it takes courage and sincere concern to offer difficult feedback. Appreciating this will go a long way and set the stage for your professional growth and increasing trust.
When assessing feedback, note that it’s through another’s strengths lens—it’s from their perspective. They may use different verbiage and phrases, so ask clarifying questions to achieve understanding. Taking sufficient time before you respond will afford an information-sharing dialogue. You’ll be rewarded with a new perspective, some of the best learning you can receive. There may be something you’re ready to see now that you could not see in the past.
Great listening skills will seldom let you down, suggest consultants Jennifer Garvey Berger and Keith Johnston in Simple Habits for Complex Times: Powerful Practices for Leaders (Stanford Business Books, 2015).
Listening well permits you to engage your people and learn from them. Some of this learning comes in the form of feedback. Deep listening builds trust and helps you to lead by example.
You can learn a lot from sitting with the feedback you receive.