I Looked at Them – They Looked at Me
Powerful feedback often feels wrong.
I looked at them – they looked at me:
During a recent conversation, a leader shared some surprising feedback he’d received.
He was having lunch with several team members when he said, “You’re all so negative.”
Everyone stopped eating, leaned forward, and stared. Their looks were saying, “You’re calling us negative?”
He said, “I realized that negativity might be about me.”
We smiled. I slapped him on the back.
Surprised and rejected:
It’s common for tough feedback to be rejected.
- Defend yourself. Explain that your current behaviors and attitudes are the right ones. Give reasons that justify your path.
- Blame others. Suppose you receive feedback on your use of humor. You might blame by saying, “The real problem is you don’t have a sense of humor.”
- Be adversarial. Attack the person giving feedback. “You don’t see the whole picture.” or “You don’t understand my situation.”
Perhaps the worst result of rejecting feedback is people stop giving it.
You solidify poor performance and devalue others when you reject tough feedback.
How you respond to feedback contributes to your future.
The leader in the opening story saw himself in an unexpected light. The first step of improvement is acknowledging the need for improvement.
Accept the unexpected idea that you might contribute to the problem.
Receive feedback with openness, not defensiveness.
- Tell me more.
- Help me understand what you’re saying.
- What makes you say that?
Seek suggestions. Take action based on feedback.
Feedback serves you well when you take action on it.
- “You’re negative.” Identify behaviors that inspire positivity. Practice them, even if you don’t feel them.
- “You don’t listen.” Learn and implement listening strategies.
- “You need to be right too much.” Whisper in your own ear, “I could be wrong.”, even when you think you’re right.
What does it mean to receive feedback like a leader?
Afterword: All feedback isn’t accurate or useful. That’s for another post.
To receive the feedback is one thing, it’s what you do with the feedback separates leaders from others. Processing the information, transforming into the best possible usefulness for all to grow with.
Thanks Tim. I wondered if you might be the first one in today! 🙂
Yes, process the information. Don’t go with a knee-jerk reaction. Perhaps ask, “What if the feedback is accurate?”
Happy Labor Day
🤓 Timing Dan.
In regards to accuracy that would fall under processing for me.
Enjoy your Labor Day as well!
Totally agree it’s what you do with feedback…A teachable spirit is a mark of humility and a prerequsite to effective leadership. Teachability is infectious!
Majority of growth comes from self-awareness. One of the major ways we grow is from feedback. Leaders check their ego at the door and remain open to the potential for growth. Like you said, all feedback isn’t necessarily good or useful; however remaining open to it is crucial.
Feedback is good as long as…..IT IS constructive, NOT destructive AND is two-way, aids development, building of teams, reaching of resolution to problems, job fulfillment, satisfaction. I have heard of people who can issue it, but cannot take it back the way.
Although your feedback post relates to verbal feedback, which is good, it mean’s people are talking, talking honestly. I am not a believer in another type of feedback, that being ‘feedback forms’, especially those with ‘checkbox answers’ only, you cannot be as ‘open’, fully explain with these. They then come across as a ‘paper exercise’, people trying to manipulate the results, any wonder people don’t like these.
Maybe your final question “What does it mean to receive feedback like a leader?” should contain the word “true” in front of “leader”.
I think a lot of what people think they believe about themselves is really more of what they don’t believe about others. In other words, “I may be wrong, but I’m certainly not as wrong as her.” Or, “He certainly can’t know more than I do.” They are judgments on individuals more than groups of people. You’ve written on this before. The person who is brave enough to speak truth to leadership early on is sometimes ostracized. That means multiple people have to say the same thing before the observation and intent is taken seriously. But if treatment of the initial messenger is obvious to others, the others therefore never step up and validate the message. They never take the risk. That is how the behavior perpetuates.
I recently addressed the topic of asking for feedback in my blog http://www.lennienoiles.com/new-blog/2017/8/11/asking-for-feedback
I am grateful for your daily sharing of wisdom. Thank you