Feedback is a powerful tool for personal development. Leadership and learning expert Kevin Eikenberry says feedback is too powerful to leave up to others. If you want more and better feedback, you need to take responsibility for making that happen.
Most conversations, articles and training regarding feedback is focused on giving leaders, managers and supervisors more tools and approaches for offering feedback more effectively.
This is very important information, and these are skills that can help you be significantly more effective in developing others.
But it’s only half the story.
Because you can do everything “right” in delivering feedback, but if it isn’t heard, welcomed or valued by the other person, your technique is of little value.
This article talks about the other half of the feedback equation: receiving feedback successfully.
As a coach or leader you can share these ideas with those you give feedback to, with the goal of making the feedback you give them more effective.
But, this article is really written for all of us – because we all need feedback for our ongoing growth and improvement.
Take your coaching hat off now and consider these ideas as a part of your personal development plan. Besides, once you’ve practiced them for yourself, you’ll be in a better position to share them with others!
Ways to Receive Better Feedback
Ask for it. Perhaps this should go without saying, but we all need the reminder. People often talk to me about wanting more feedback on their work, a specific project, or a situation. They will lament me that they didn’t get any feedback or the feedback they got was insufficient. My first question is always, “did you ask for feedback?” The blank stare I typically receive tells the story. The lesson? If you want feedback you have to ask for it! While it is often best to ask for feedback before the situation, so the other person can watch for and observe in a way that allows them to prepare for their comments, asking at any time is a great strategy for getting more feedback.
Value it. How do you feel when you give someone feedback and they don’t seem to care about it or don’t seem to give it much weight? Are you as likely to willingly give them feedback in the future or to work to make that feedback as effective as it could be? Probably not! If you want more (and better) feedback, you must value it which includes (among other things) thanking the person for provided us with the input for their help.
Listen to it. Getting the feedback isn’t enough, you must hear it! Listen with your ears to what is being said, so you hear the words. But listen too with your eyes and your heart. Try to understand what isn’t being said as well. Remember that giving feedback isn’t always easy, and the person sharing ideas (positive or negative) with you might not be 100% comfortable, or very experienced in, doing it. For you to get the most value from the feedback, you must listen closely and actively – asking clarifying questions and for additional details and insights.
Be open to it. Being open to feedback is easy when you agree with or have already thought of the ideas being shared. But some feedback comes as a surprise. It is especially important in those instances to be open to it. If you value it, and really listen, it will make it easier to be open. It’s important to recognize that there will sometimes be barriers in your mind. When others sense those barriers, you are making it less likely that they will want to share future feedback with you. Be open and you will get more feedback in the future (and you’ll make better use of the feedback you are currently receiving!).
Depersonalize it. The single biggest barrier to receiving feedback is defensiveness. And when you get defensive, it is usually because you are taking the feedback personally. I’m sure you have received feedback from someone when you felt like it was about you personally and not your behavior. Regardless of how someone intended the message, you can – with practice – decouple the feedback from you personally and keep it focused on your behavior. When it is about your behavior and not about you as a person, it is easier to drop your defenses and hear, and be open to, the feedback. Depending on the situation and the nature of the feedback, this depersonalization may not happen instantly, but overtime you can become more effective at translating the feedback into behavioral comments rather than interpreting them as personal in nature.
Use it. Will you agree with – and take action on – every piece of feedback you receive? Probably not. And that’s OK. On the other hand, even if you do the first five ideas well but never take any action to change, you not only aren’t using the feedback to improve, but you’re telling others (through your actions) that you don’t really want or need any feedback.
As you read through these six ideas you hopefully see a common thread. Each of these ideas will help you get more or better feedback – and some do both!
When you recognize the value feedback can have in improving your results you know it’s too important to leave to chance. Use these six ideas and you will find yourself with more input and ideas to propel you to greater performance and results.
Potential Pointer: Feedback is a powerful tool for personal development, too powerful to leave up to others. If you want more and better feedback, you need to take responsibility for making that happen.
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