Leaders Receive Feedback Graciously

“Most feedback is correct and delivered poorly.”

A deep-thinking and well-read client, Ryan, said this during a session and it really hit me. It’s simple and important.

Most feedback is—

  1. Correct
  2. Delivered Poorly

Have you ever disregarded feedback because it was delivered poorly?

Can you filter out the delivery and accept the correctness?

Poor delivery example: “Danah, I think maybe you could have done a much better job on some parts of the report, like maybe the projections or something. But I don’t know.”

Possible response #1: Danah can hear this feedback and think, “Okay, it sounds like he doesn’t know what he’s talking about. He didn’t get specific about any concerns and didn’t ask me to do anything differently. Disregard!”

Possible response #2: Or she can take the feedback through the poor delivery by thinking, “Boy, he has a hard time giving feedback. I bet he’s talking about how little guidance I put in there about short term impacts and counter measures, even though I took a deep dive on the long-range thought. I’ll read it again, then ask him if that’s what he meant.”

In both thoughts, Danah knows her boss is trying to give her feedback. In her first possible response, Danah throws the baby out with the bathwater, so to speak. Because the feedback was not specific or clear, she chose to ignore that her boss gave her feedback at all. However, in her second response, Danah realizes her boss is giving her feedback which could help her create a better report in the future. Basically, she takes both the responsibility and initiative to make changes and follow up with her boss.

When delivering, can you remember that poor delivery, not the feedback itself, can be an obstacle?

Big pointers on delivering feedback

  • Be specific about what you’re observing.
  • Clarify the understanding.
  • Be specific about what you want to be done differently in the future.
  • Offer assistance.
  • Bonus points: give positive feedback when they’ve incorporated your feedback.

Better delivery example: “Darah, you didn’t go into much detail on short term impacts. It’s important to have more details for the short term, and more importantly, some solid guidance on action steps to mitigate issues. Do you see what I’m asking for? Can you take another crack at that this week? Is there anything I can do to help?”

Big pointers on receiving feedback:

  • Remember delivering corrective feedback is difficult for most people.
  • Supervisors and managers mean well and have your and the enterprises’s interests at heart.
  • Stay humble and appreciative; you want to do your best work and feedback helps.
  • Ask clarifying questions and incorporate the feedback in the future.
  • Bonus points: in the future, return to the issue and ask if you’ve done better.

Giving corrective feedback is difficult and necessary. Graciously receiving corrective feedback, even when given poorly, shows humility and a willingness to improve.

Thanks for reading,

Alan Feirer

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