In spite of vocalizing they want to hear it, many leaders block feedback out. Rarely do leaders know how to receive feedback well. Those who do demonstrate to staff appropriate behaviors that go a long way towards reducing workplace conflicts. Such leaders show people how to be open to learning without becoming defensive.

But receiving feedback doesn’t come naturally for most people. Our default reaction seems to be to block feedback, get defensive and protect ourselves from admitting we could be wrong or need to change.

Organizations can’t be agile when individuals aren’t willing to shift rapidly. This is why feedback loops are so important for meeting complex marketplace needs. Everyone needs to be willing to change and that isn’t easy when people are defending and protecting opinions and turf.

Be confident when challenged.

As you receive feedback, three triggers will prompt you to categorize the provider’s comments, note Douglas Stone and Sheila Heen in Thanks for the Feedback: The Science and Art of Receiving Feedback Well  (Penguin Books, 2014):

  • Truth Triggers: If feedback is erroneous or off base, you can face it objectively and depersonalize it. Something that’s clearly untrue can be sorted out and dissected. Prompt the feedback giver to explain further or provide examples that work truth back into the equation.
  • Relationship Triggers: Feelings about the feedback giver can taint your perspective, depending on trust levels. Do your feelings call the giver’s judgment into question? Recognizing this pitfall and filtering its effect can help you detach from the relationship and focus on the true issues.
  • Identity Triggers: Feelings of inadequacy often trigger self-worth woes. Always remember that your leadership position doesn’t determine your worth. Questioning ourselves after negative feedback is normal, but relying on the value you’ve offered throughout your life can bring assurance. Screen out as many emotional components as possible.

Being aware of triggers lets you honestly evaluate feedback sources, assess their intentions, compare facts to opinions, and rely on a strong identity and self-worth. Training with a coach or mentor can prove invaluable.

What has been your experience with listening to feedback? I’d love to hear from you. I can be reached here or on LinkedIn.