How do leaders create a space to give and receive constructive feedback?

At times it can be tricky to be a leader, especially if you want to grow and progress professionally. It can be easy to become defensive when you start to hear feedback or criticism about the way that you lead. As a culture, we often feel that we need to defend ourselves or explain our actions. I have found as leaders, one of our greatest strengths can be to listen to feedback with gratitude.

As leaders, we can gain feedback in so many ways. If you are a leader in an organization, an All-Team Survey can be a vital tool to help you keep your pulse on what is happening within the organization. This can be a powerful way to remove the “grit from the gears,” but only if you are committed to the action and follow-up required and are looking for more than a one-and-done survey. Team leaders can benefit from All Team Surveys as they compare and contrast their numbers to the overall numbers of the organization. All leaders can benefit from constructive feedback from subordinates, co-workers, industry contacts, as well as those they report to. This is commonly called a 360 Survey or evaluation. In my experience, this is essential for leading organizations as a whole or even larger teams. I also recommend that these be done with professionals who specialize in surveys, presenting and organizing the feedback, and helping the leaders effect and manage change.

I remember being in a boardroom after a meeting, and I was asking for feedback. I genuinely wanted to know what I could do better. What should I stop doing or even start doing? I wanted to get their perspective on how I could improve as their leader. As they began to give me feedback, I noticed that I started to get triggered and felt that I needed to defend myself from what they were saying. After a few minutes, one of the members of the meeting said that I was doing a great job, but I had asked for feedback and now was pushing back and not really hearing what they were saying.

To combat this type of defensiveness I immediately started thanking people for their feedback. I do this because when you come from a place of gratitude it is challenging to be defensive. It has been my experience that when receiving feedback, you have two options; you can thank them and put the feedback to work or make excuses and do nothing with it. If we aren’t using feedback to improve ourselves, we become stagnant leaders. Without feedback, you won’t know what areas of improvement you need to make to be a more well-rounded leader. As leaders, feedback is vital to our growth, and being able to seek, accept, and grow from feedback is an essential skill in becoming A Leader Worth Following.