I am convinced that skill, knowledge and even expertise will only get you so far in your career and at a certain point your ability to grow, advance and move up in an organization will become dependent on your leadership and ‘people’ skills. Don’t get me wrong, you need knowledge and practical skills as well, but those alone won’t get you to the top.
I believe a key imperative to being an effective leader is your ability to hear (and action) feedback. Here’s the interesting part – it doesn’t always come in the form you’d like to hear it. There are (of course) ideal ways to hear feedback. For example, this may involve a conversation that begins like this… “I have some feedback I’d like to share with you and I mean it in the most constructive and sincere way possible”. Their tone is calm and professional, they are clearly looking out for your best interests and it is from someone you already trust and respect. Here is the reality – it often doesn’t come wrapped in such a pretty package.
It may come from someone you don’t like or don’t feel as though has enough information to provide that feedback, it may be an email with a condescending tone or it may even seem destructive or critical. The person providing the feedback may be emotional or angry and may not have your best interests in mind. It may not be given thoughtfully, considerately or kindly. But keep in mind that perception is someone’s reality. To the person providing you with the feedback, they sincerely feel it is the truth whether you think so or not. The other reality is that it is more than likely that someone else feels the same way.
When receiving challenging feedback, I encourage you as a leader to consider the following:
- Don’t react. Regardless of how crazy the feedback is, or how un-true you may believe it to be, don’t react because chances are, you’ll regret it later. Remain professional and thank the individual for taking the time to bring this forward and let them know you’ll evaluate how you can improve in the future taking their feedback in to thoughtful consideration.
- Determine how much truth is in the feedback. This takes some careful, thoughtful consideration and in many cases, can be a bit of a painful journey. The fact that someone is calling you out on something you may not want to deal with or may not be very proud of can hit a nerve and be uncomfortable, but don’t simply brush it off or disregard it. Take the time to evaluate how much truth is in what they are saying (because there is likely some) and recognize it for what it is – an opportunity for improvement.
- Make an action plan to improve. Now that this feedback has been brought to your attention, what are you going to do about it? As I said, it’s more than likely that someone else feels the same way so don’t simply brush it off. Spend some time debriefing (even internally) and make an action plan for improvement. The feedback given could eventually be the one thing that could stand between you and your next promotion or career move – don’t miss this opportunity to improve.
Even though you’d like feedback to be given in a way that suits your style, that just isn’t always going to happen, but at the end of the day think of feedback (in any way, shape or form) as a gift and use it to grow yourself as a leader.