Estimated reading time: 4 mins
If somebody gives you feedback that surprises you, how should you respond? Defensively?… dismissively?… aggressively? Of course not. Here’s how.
In last week’s installation of this series , I emphasized a key point: Feedback Is A Gift . In order to understand how other people perceive your personality and your behaviors, you need to be told about them. The thing is, giving feedback can be tough for most people, especially if it is ‘bad news’ (and is therefore avoided), so feedback is precious .
Don’t Act Defensively
Can you remember acting defensively when a colleague told you about their opinion of something you didn’t do very well? I doubt anyone can say No to that question. When we’re told about a mistake we’ve made, our egos often kick in and try to explain why it wasn’t our fault. This is natural, but not very helpful. The danger of acting defensively when given feedback is that, eventually, those people stop giving it . That would be a real shame and hurt our personal development.
So when getting painful feedback, you need to ask yourself "Is hearing the feedback more or less important than stopping my ego being hurt temporarily? " If the answer is More, then listen, understand and reflect. If your answer is Less, then defend your position and forget about feedback in the future!
So What Do You Do When Receiving Feedback?
- Listen to the feedback without responding
- Ask for clarity on any point that you don’t understand
- Ask for examples if they will help illustrate the feedback
- Repeat in your own words what the feedback tells you
- If at any point you begin to feel over-emotional, break off the conversation politely and ask for it to be rescheduled
What Do You Do After Receiving Feedback?
I think the most important thing to do first is to decide whether you accept or dismiss the feedback. You might dismiss feedback because it doesn’t strike a chord with you, or is in conflict to the feedback you’ve received from others. But remember, one big reason why you might have used 360 degree feedback is to test the consistency of your behaviors from right around your sphere of influence. Dismissing feedback at this stage might damage opportunities to learn. Do dismiss feedback in exceptional circumstances.
However, it is futile to work on feedback you don’t accept. Even if, unbeknown to you, there is a lot of truth in it. If you don’t accept the feedback then it will be a waste of your time trying to make adjustments because you won’t commit to them.
With the feedback you’ve dismissed, I think it is worth going back to the person who gave it to you and telling them straight that you don’t accept it. This is not just out of courtesy, but it is one last opportunity to get more information on the points being made.
Building An Action Plan
With the feedback you do accept, then the best way of using it in your development is to create an Action Plan. This is quite simply a list of actions/goals you’re going to do to make adjustments to your behaviors, with dates associated with them.
For example, if you receive feedback that says you don’t use enough views from your peers to make decisions, you may decide to build a stronger internal network. So a couple of goals you could set yourself is to 1) Build a list of all the people who you would like in your network (within a week) and then 2) Invite each of those people for coffee over a period of the next month.
Your Action Plan, if it’s going to work, must be realistic and implementable. It’s pointless setting yourself goals that you can’t achieve! A key part of your Action Plan is reconvening with the people who gave you the original feedback and updating them on what you’ve done, and it’s important to mention how you feel about it too. It’s also an excellent opportunity to ask for feedback again which should show the impact of the adjustments.
The Importance of Reassessment
Receiving and responding to feedback isn’t a one-off. By far, the most effective way of using feedback to learn about yourself, your behaviors and their impact on others is to keep the process going. Your Action Plan is your rolling list of goals, and reassessment with the people who gave you feedback, and new people, will allow you to make course corrections and change priorities should you need to.
What’s more, getting into the habit of using feedback as part of your development will mean the process becomes increasingly natural to you and it won’t feel as awkward or clumsy as it does at first.
With practice, you will be adept at ensuring your behaviors are perceived consistently, and be set up to be a strong leader because of it. Consistent behavior according to your personality and preferences is the key to strong leadership. Integrity is Strength .