What to do when the Feedback Hurts

Leadership involves asking for, and willingly listening to, feedback.

Asking for comments, suggestions and insight from team members on what’s working and what’s not is important for two reasons:

1.  It provides leaders new information and perspective.

2.   It creates an inclusive atmosphere where people feel valued.

Of course, that only works if the ask is followed by a willingness to listen, respond and act on the feedback provided.

Perhaps the most difficult part of accepting feedback is keeping an open mind when the feedback is unexpected, negative or delivered poorly.  The following steps help process that feedback.

1. Don’t get defensive or allow personal biases to interfere with the message.

2. Take some time to evaluate.  Asking for feedback doesn’t automatically mean it must be accepted.  It is a resource for consideration and  evaluation.

3. Respond.  When there is no response to feedback, apathy and resentment flourish.  People start wondering why leaders bothered asking, why they bothered responding and the next time they are asked, they won’t respond.

And finally, asking for feedback because a book or blog said that’s what leaders do is not a reason to ask.  Real leaders don’t ask unless they want a truthful answer, even if the truth hurts.

2 thoughts on “What to do when the Feedback Hurts

  1. Laurie,

    It can be very difficult to do, but I think the best way to handle negative feedback is to try to not take it personally. I think people are more likely to get defensive when they are defending their own pride, ego, etc. But it doesn’t have to be about that.

    They are usually only disagreeing with a certain idea or approach. And as long as it’s done in a respectful manner, that shouldn’t be a big deal. In fact, it should be embraced, because it can help make a better decision. At the very least, it can help remind you why the current approach is the best way to go if that is the case.

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