Getting and learning from feedback isn’t always easy, but it is necessary, if we want to become better.
Without clear performance targets and data measuring how close or far they are from reaching them, leaders find it difficult to grow and improve. When delivered thoughtfully, however, feedback can provide leaders with the actionable data they need to become more effective. If you want to get the feedback that is necessary to improve your leadership, here are a few steps you can take:
Build a psychologically safe environment. Sharing feedback is often interpersonally risky. To increase the likelihood of your colleagues taking that risk with you, show them that their honesty won’t be met with negative repercussions.
Ask skillfully. Asking “What feedback do you have?” rarely elicits a useful response.
Request both positive and negative data. Clients tell me all the time that they just want to hear “the bad stuff” when it comes to feedback. What they fail to appreciate is that positive feedback that targets a specific behavior is useful.
Give your full attention and listen carefully. Eliminate distractions, including your phone and laptop, and focus fully on the person giving the feedback.
Don’t debate or defend. If you find yourself disagreeing with some feedback, practice self-awareness and notice this reaction, but do not offer contradictory evidence or challenge your colleague.
Own your reactions. You may feel happy, angry, confused or frustrated by what you hear. Recognize that your reactions are about you, not the other person.
Demonstrate gratitude. Say thank you in a way that conveys sincere appreciation.
Reflect and evaluate. Now that you have some new data, reflect on what you’ve heard even if you don’t like reflection.
Make a plan. All the steps before this set you up to make a plan and put it into practice. Pick one or two capabilities you want to improve, get really clear about what “improved” looks like, and then consider the steps necessary for you to learn and adopt that new behavior.
Great leaders are great learners. Getting and learning from feedback isn’t always easy, but it is necessary, if we want to become better.
(Jennifer Porter is the managing partner of The Boda Group.)