A healthy dose of feedback is unlikely to be at the top of your christmas list. But constructive, 360 feedback is the gift that keeps on giving and could be the key to unlocking the growth potential that you know is there in the business you love.

Sounds great, right? AND it’s free. No fancy pants online forms or expensive consultants required. A simple, round-robin email asking staff to detail 5 things you (or the business) do well and 5 things you could do better, would suffice.

In fact, asking for feedback is the easy bit. It’s receiving it that can be hard.

Here’s how to embrace feedback like the welcome christmas gift that it is....

1. Allow Time For It To Sink In

When we receive information that’s significant but unexpected (positive, or negative) our immediate response – be it shock, disappointment, anger, elation or whatever - isn’t always the most appropriate or helpful. Let yourself experience the emotion, and then release it and try to accept what you have heard more calmly and rationally.   

2. Keep It In Perspective

It’s not unusual for people to allow one piece of negative feedback to overshadow all the great things that they do and forget the positive stuff about themselves. (Similarly, I have worked with some people who only paid attention to the praise and disregarded important corrective feedback they were given.) So allow the feedback to add to the psychological picture you already hold of yourself, rather than replace it or skew it.  Again, this sometimes takes time.

3. Show Interest And Ask Questions

You may need to explore the feedback in greater depth, assuming you can do this constructively, without being defensive or threatening. In what situations have they observed you behaving in this way?  What was the impact or consequences?  What would they like to see you doing instead?  

4. Look Below The Surface

In an ideal world, all corrective feedback would be wrapped up in tactful language, and delivered in a supportive tone by someone we believe has absolutely our best interests at heart.  But it doesn’t always happen like that. Sometimes feedback is clumsily expressed, or comes from someone we don’t particularly get on with (so they would say that, wouldn’t they), or sometimes we think even with the best will in the world, they are just plain wrong to think of us like that.  What then?  Well – with tactless comments, simply look beyond the language at the essence of the message: there may well be some truth there, perhaps expressed harshly, but still a helpful point.  With the feedback from the person you don’t like – again, they probably have an important point to make, so look beyond any relationship issues and focus on what you can learn from their feedback.  Finally with the feedback you simply don’t agree with – well, be honest with yourself first.  Is there not even a glimmer of truth in what they say?  If the answer is – sincerely – still no, then ok.  But they have a perception, and they have been brave enough to share it with you (if that’s what they’re thinking, you’d still rather know, surely?).  So while you might disagree with their view, you do have something to work with in terms of that person’s perception of your style and how you might manage your relationship with them going forward.  

5. Don’t Get Defensive Or Argue With The Feedback

Instead, try one of these: “thank you for letting me know, I wasn’t aware I did that and I can see how that would look from your perspective”, or “thank you for telling me that, could you please tell me some more about my tendency to behave in that way” or if you really believe they’ve got the wrong end of the stick try “thank you for sharing that with me, I wasn’t aware that’s how I can come across, can I just explain more about what’s going on for me in these situations..” although handle this last tactic with care.  

6. Reflect On What To Do Next

Once you have accepted that this is the view held by your colleague, you can decide what you want to do with the information.  Don’t be too quick to either dismiss it or take it to heart – do it justice by fully reflecting on it first.  When you’re ready you can decide whether you agree, partially agree or disagree with the feedback.  Whichever you decide, you do need to accept that this is the view held by your colleague, and acknowledge that it might not have been easy for them to share it with you, so thank them.

7. And Remember You Are Only Human...

Just like everybody else.  You have enormous strengths and skills – otherwise you wouldn’t be where you are today, having achieved all that you have. However, in addition to this, none of us are perfect: we all have areas where we can improve.  So regard any critical feedback you are given as a chance for you to learn more about the improvements you can make, in order to be more effective in the future.

Being able to receive feedback constructively is a great skill.  Done properly, the benefits are like looking in a mirror: just as we take a look in the mirror in the morning before we leave the house - to check our hair’s ok and there’s no toothpaste down our shirt – feedback represents the truth of how we come across to those around us.  Knowing other peoples’ views of you and how you might improve is a hugely powerful lever to improve your effectiveness. Leading without feedback would be like going through your working life without ever checking the mirror. 

For help and advice on the HR needs of your business call us now on 0203 627 7048 or drop us a line at hello@thehrhub. Got a spare 10 minutes? Check out our latest ebook The Ultimate Step By Guide To Being An Inspirational Leader and find out how to lead like a superhero...

Image by Caitlin H

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