How You Receive Feedback Can Make or Break Your Business Results

Any senior leader knows how hard it is to get feedback. For one thing, the number of people willing to give it regularly becomes smaller and smaller the higher up you get. For another, you know full well that not all your decisions or behaviors will be celebrated, and it’s a little scary to be vulnerable.

For me, no matter my best intentions, it is still hard to hear criticism and it takes me some time to process in the most glowe-y way. I’m here to tell you that it doesn’t necessarily get easier, but I now measure my success in receiving it in two new ways: One, shrinking the time between constructive criticism and productive decision making. Two, getting less and less personally derailed over time by the feedback I get.

As I was thinking about my own experience, I realized working on how to better integrate feedback has made me more solicitous and more open to receiving it as a leader - and has dramatically impacted my business results.

Ultimately, you’re responsible for inspiring your team to create value day in and day out. Keeping a pulse on how you are doing in the eyes of your staff is one of the most critical ways to keep them motivated and produce the growth you envision for your company. In this piece, I’d like to share a process I’ve used successfully throughout the years to leverage constructive criticism for my business’s success, and my own.

Get clear on your motivation for feedback

Feedback is most powerful if you have a clear reason to ask for it that you truly buy into, and if you plan to take action based on the results. That may not be where you really are right now. So, if you’re able to reflect on the feedback you’ve received and/or solicited over the past six months, why did you really do it?

To get confirmation on your decisions? To invite innovation? To call out your blind spots or failures? To satisfy someone else’s suggestion (or demand) that you need to get more feedback? In order to change your perspective, you have to be honest with yourself about where you are really starting. Otherwise, you will not be sufficiently motivated to change your approach.

The motivator that works for me over and over again is that I must have feedback in order to meet the goals I have set for my company. Making it about your company is helpful for two reasons:

  1. It helps me invite truly constructive responses. Attacks on my character aren’t helpful to anyone. But reasoned critique of my approach and methodology can spark important shifts in my company that lead to better results.
  2. It helps me take responses less personally - it’s not about me. It’s about my company, and everyone impacted by my decisions.

How to receive feedback

Many of the leaders I’ve worked with “know” that they need more feedback from their teams, but deep down, they aren’t truly inviting it. It all boils down to negative emotions around criticism. So even if your brain knows it’s the right thing to do as a leader, actually receiving it, and remaining open to it, requires ongoing commitment to identifying and processing the emotions that are attached to feedback.

Here is the process I recommend:

  1. Recognize how you feel when you get feedback. Whatever the emotions are, don’t shame yourself, judge yourself, or try to avoid the feelings. Just let them happen. Feedback may make you feel attacked, and your brain literally does not know the difference between a physical and psychological threat. We’ve all had reaction to feedback we are not proud of - understanding what happens in your brain and body when you hear feedback is critically important.
  2. Write down the feedback. If you need to go back to the person who gave it to get clarity, that is fine. This makes the process more objective than when you try to process the information - and all the emotions that may come with it - the moment you hear it.
  3. Come back to yourself. What is your mission as a leader, and what are the values you use to guide your decisions? Sometimes feedback helps you stay on track - and sometimes it can tempt you away from your highest convictions. But you can only remain grounded if you’re clear on this mission and values to begin with.
  4. Thank them. Explain how the feedback impacted you and how you will act on it or change as a result OR explain why you may NOT act on the feedback. Everyone appreciates confirmation that you heard them and gave their thoughts true consideration, whether or not they agree with your next steps.

You don’t have to do it alone

Even though I’ve outlined four steps here, this is by no means a simple process. It is a rare individual who can completely shift the way they ask for, process, and act on feedback all on their own. However, once the shift is made, your path as a leader will be forever changed. I’ve relied on coaches and mentors to make these changes over time. And I recommend the same for you.

Learning to incorporate feedback in a healthy way is a very important evolution for any leader, especially if you are leading a major transformation. Self aware leaders gain the trust and confidence of their people. And high-trust teams create exceptional results.

At Glowe, we help leaders to make shifts like this in service of successfully leading the most important transformations in their company. Reach out today to schedule a discovery call.

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