In my last blog, we focused on how to give feedback like a pro. Of course, that’s only half the equation. In this blog, we’ll focus on how to do something even more challenging; receive critical feedback like a grown up.

Almost anyone will tell you that feedback is the “breakfast of champions”, but there is a difference between repeating this cliché and really wanting to eat that breakfast. There is something about receiving feedback from another adult that can make us feel like a naughty child, especially if it’s not delivered with finesse. We can be hijacked by our reptile brain, become defensive and stop listening, even if we’re smiling through gritted teeth.

Deep down, some of us believe that being open to others’ feedback is evidence of weakness; that we need to project an image of perfection. In fact, the exact opposite is true. Being closed to feedback is a demonstration of weakness and insecurity. Only secure, strong people can be truly open to others’ feedback.

Feedback is critical to our progress, no matter how senior or experienced we are. All of us can learn and grow indefinitely. Besides, it’s much more interesting to be a “learn it all” than a “know it all.” If you really want to benefit from the gift of feedback, no matter who or where it comes from, the following 2 tactics will help.

Park your ego

Most amateur tennis players would jump at the chance to get feedback from Roger Federer. On the flipside, not many would appreciate feedback from a ball boy. But what if the ball boy has an insight that could improve your game? Why wouldn’t you want to hear it?

In an ideal world, the person giving you feedback would have unquestionable credibility in your field of endeavour. They would also have real skill in how they deliver that feedback to you. Unfortunately, this is rarely the case. As a consequence, the primary obstruction to receiving feedback is your ego. It’s the voice inside your head saying; “who is this person to be giving ME feedback!?”

The answer is to park your ego; to welcome feedback from wherever it comes, from whomever offers it, and however it’s delivered. Here is the key idea; you don’t have to agree with the feedback in order to accept it as another person’s subjective point of view. The need to agree with feedback before accepting it is your ego talking, and your ego is very unhelpful in a feedback situation.

To employ this tactic:

  • Welcome feedback from wherever it comes, even if you think the person delivering it is completely clueless. You never know where a great insight will come from.
  • Consider the feedback openly in your mind, even if it feels way off base.
  • Smile and say thank you. If you really think there’s no value in the feedback, just stop there.
  • Under no circumstances debate, argue or prosecute the feedback. That’s your ego talking.
  • Pay particular attention to the feedback that really gets on your nerves; it’s usually the most accurate.

Dig for treasure

Imagine there was priceless treasure buried beneath your feet, and all you had to do was dig it up; you would do it, right? Think of feedback the same way. It contains treasure almost every time, even if it’s buried deeply. The objective is to dig it up, using curiosity as your shovel.

Curiosity means that you’re open and vulnerable with your words, tone and body language. Even better; demonstrate some genuine excitement and anticipation. The other person is likely to be a little nervous, so your openness means you are far more likely to get the full picture, as they see it.

To employ this tactic;

  • Listen actively and intently to everything that is said (and unsaid). Most of us listen for an opportunity to argue the point or give an alternative point of view, so this one simple idea can be a game-changer.
  • Express genuine curiosity, without defensiveness. For example, “no-one’s ever really given me that feedback before. Can you tell me more? I’m really curious to understand it.”
  • Ask for suggestions to improve. For example; “what are the two or three things you recommend that I do to address your feedback?”
  • Clarify what success looks like. For example; “how would you know if I’ve acted on this feedback? What would you see?”
  • Summarize what you’ve heard and thank the person for their feedback. Doing this will mean you’re far more likely to receive high quality feedback from them again in the future.

I hope this blog enables you to embrace feedback from wherever it comes, so that you can use it to learn, grow and increase your impact even further over time.

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about PETER

For two decades, Dr. Peter Fuda has been a Sherpa to leaders, teams and organizations across the globe. He’s coached more than 250 CEOs to measurably higher levels of performance. His consulting company has delivered dozens of cases of business transformation and thousands of individual cases of leadership transformation, at a success rate of greater than 90%.

Find out more about Peter

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