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Six Tips To Solicit and Accept Feedback Constructively


How to Receive Constructive Feedback from Your Boss

When writing my book DARE, I interviewed many women, but also men. In talking with the men I asked: “If you could give women in the workplace one piece of advice, what would it be?” The number one response I received was “I wish women would not be so defensive when I give them constructive feedback." Many men said they would not give candid feedback to women because women typically get too emotional or upset. Women managers, on the other hand felt that men got very combative when receiving their feedback, leading to a breakdown of the process.

My initial response was to tell both men and women they may want to think about how their feedback was delivered. We are all better able to absorb feedback when it is delivered in a caring fashion. However, feedback really is a gift. I have learned over the years it is only people who really care about us who will take the time to give us honest and candid feedback. And, feedback is essential if we are going to grow and reach our full potential. If you want to be a great leader you should be relentless about asking for and accepting feedback. And doing so without getting defensive. If you build the right trusting environment, you will not have a problem eliciting feedback from others.

Six tips on how to solicit and accept feedback constructively:

  1. Listen Calmly and Monitor Your Body Language: Before you get flustered thinking about what lies ahead, take a deep breath and keep an open mind. If the feedback is negative and you feel defensive or like you are being attacked, just remember that this is just one person’s point of view. If all else fails, remember research published by Jean-Francois Manzoni in the Harvard Business Review, shows that if you remember that the person offering the feedback is reliable and has good intentions towards you – it will make it easier for you to accept their suggestions gracefully. Delivering tough feedback is really difficult and that is why many managers avoid doing it. By doing so, they are not helping you to reach your full potential.

  2. Remember That Feedback Is an Opportunity: The best leaders know there is always something to improve on. Perhaps you’ve heard the expression, “What got you here won’t get you there.” You have to constantly assess what’s needed to do the job and to what degree you’re satisfying those requirements. Those who accept that they have weakness and make a plan to improve it aren’t just more capable, they’re more confident – two of the most important ingredients when it comes to daring and leadership.

  3. Take Notes: During the feedback process, as your mind races in a hundred different directions, it can be hard to process all that is being told to you. To corral your thoughts and be engaged in the process in a constructive manner, take notes and jot down specific areas that need improvement. Ask questions to check defensiveness and enhance your learning, as suggested by the Wharton School: “What do you think I’m already doing well, what are areas for improvement? Are there specific things I have done that I should definitely keep doing?” The information you write down can serve as a roadmap to set goals and improve performance.

  4. Say “Thank You”: There is no point shooting the messenger and leaving in a huff. Be gracious and thank the speaker for pointing out specific weak spots. If you have received qualitative feedback, highlighting specific weak areas, use this information to chart your course of action. Let the speaker know you’ll take time to think about what he/she has just told you. Even when we disagree with feedback, we need to understand that other’s perceptions of us are their reality, and if we don’t understand and respond to what they perceive as weakness, their view of us will not change.

  5. Follow-up in a Positive Manner: If you decide to take action based on the feedback, let the person know. If it is feasible, make sure you check back with them with regular updates on how you are doing against your plan.

  6. Be proactive in asking for feedback: When you do this it will reinforce the good things you need to keep doing, and it provides a safe way for others to provide you with constructive feedback. When you make yourself open, you may be surprised at the great insights you learn about yourself from others. The very best leaders make this a part of their everyday routine. If you are going to meet with your boss and ask for feedback in a formal setting, make sure you have communicated ahead of time that this is the intent of your meeting. This will allow them time to reflect and be thoughtful about what is shared with you.

Don’t miss any opportunity to gain knowledge about yourself, your job performance and how to work better with others. Remember, the very best leaders know what their weakness are, and they work every single day to close the gap between aspiration and performance.

What tips do you have to receive feedback graciously? Share them here or @Becky_Blalock on Twitter.

Becky Blalock is a C-Suite I.T. Executive, Thought Leader, Board Member, Speaker, and Author. Her best-selling book DARE: Straight Talk on Confidence, Courage, and Career for Women in Charge is available on amazon.

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© 2015 by Becky Blalock