Highest Leadership Imperative – Part 2

Receiving Transformational Feedback

By Clyde C. Lowstuter

While this blog is about receiving input from others, I would dare say that giving and getting feedback are each stressful in their own right because of the unknown emotional reactions of either party.

When it comes to getting feProfessional Woman Speaking with Colleagueedback ourselves, it is easy to become defensive as our insecurities often trigger immediate flight or fight syndromes.  Unfortunately, when we try to operate from that threatened, reactive stance our communication is blocked and misunderstandings can blow discussions way out of proportion.

If you find yourself growing upset during a feedback session, the best thing you can do is take a breath, acknowledge your sensitivity around the issue, and then ask for clarification. “I am surprised by your feedback; please tell me how you see and experience my behavior.  An example would be helpful.” This does one of two things: One, it diffuses awkwardness and shows the person giving the feedback that you are receptive to receiving advice. Two, questions allow you a moment to regain your composure so that a meaningful conversation can ensue.

6 Key Guidelines for Receiving Feedback that we’ve coached our clients to employ:

  1. Change your mindset – about feedback.  For instance, if you view feedback as a threat you’ll likely cringe at the prospect of someone telling you that you should change your behavior.  On the other hand, if you embrace well-meaning comments as essential to enhancing your effectiveness, then you will expectantly seek it out and learn from every success or hiccup.
  2. Assume complete accountability – Don’t blame others or make excuses for the situation. Be quick to respond with, “You’re probably right, I haven’t (seen it, heard it, experienced this) or been aware of it before.”
  3. Listen deeply – of what is being said (and not said) about your behavior, attitude, or performance.  In reality, others will see and experience your impact on them differently than you do. Within those blind spots are the opportunities to raise your self-awareness, interpersonal skills, and rapport.
  4. Be highly appreciative – of the courage that it took for the person to be open and honest about thoughts and feelings that might adversely affect your relationship or your effectiveness. Assume that the feedback is originating from the desire to enhance your well-being, not tear you down or shame you.
  5. Be insatiably curious – Ask thoughtful, penetrating questions.  BTW – the best questions are usually short and simple.  Tell me more, please.  What else?  When does this occur?  What triggers my becoming defensive?  How might I respond better?  Please give me a high sign when I start to derail.   Periodically ask me, “What’s the impact you’re having right now?”
  6. Experiment, Observe, Adapt – After receiving feedback, identify what’s working well/could be improved.  Your goal is to experiment with different perspectives and behaviors. Reflect on the feedback and adapt your behavior with the goal to achieve a positive result. Note how you and others feel and react.

“Champions know that success is inevitable; that there is no such thing as failure, only feedback.  They know that the best way to forecast the future is to create it.”
Michael J. Gelb

Missed the first part of this series?  Check it out:  Highest Leadership Imperative – Part 1.

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