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Receiving Feedback

Are you getting feedback? When speaking about feedback in management trainings, more often than not it is about giving feedback to your colleagues, to your team members, and yes, to your boss, but not about receiving feedback.

When you enter a management role and continue to move up on a corporate ladder you will probably notice that the higher up you move, the less feedback you receive. I regularly hear from my coaching clients that they would appreciate more feedback from their teams and that they are often uncertain how they are perceived. They generally take this as a given and resign themselves to “I just don’t get any feedback”.

Why is that? Individuals in leadership roles are often seen as removed from their teams, not interested in and not open to feedback. Their team members may regard constructive feedback as criticism and may fear repercussion. At the same time, everyone should have the opportunity to grow and get better at what they are doing. Some leaders may view asking for feedback as admitting they are not perfect or as a sign of weakness – the contrary is true: It is a sign of strength to ask for feedback and help.

What can you do? Firstly, you need to create a trusting environment, where everyone can speak up openly without having to fear a negative impact for themselves. You need to convey to others that you are convinced everyone, including yourself, can get better at what they are doing. Launching an online survey or asking for anonymous feedback generally does not yield helpful results.

I encourage you to be brave and use 1:1 meetings to ask for feedback as follows: “Everyone, including me, can get better at what they are doing. So, I would appreciate your feedback. Tell me one thing that I can do better or differently to be a better manager for you.” Do not ask: “Do you have feedback for me?” This is counter-productive and – depending on who you ask – may not get you a response you can work with.

When someone provides feedback bear the following in mind:

  • Listen without interruption; interrupting others often turns to defensiveness

  • Avoid being defensive and don’t justify yourself

  • Ask questions to clarify to convey your interest

  • Summarize the feedback to check that you have understood correctly

  • Indicate that you need to think about the feedback

  • Thank the person for their feedback – it takes guts to tell the manager what they did not do well – acknowledge this

Which of these are you perhaps not as good at as you could be? Take a note of one thing that you are going to do differently when the next occasion for receiving feedback occurs.

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