Feedback by its very definition is all about improvement – and who wouldn’t want to be better?
I once heard someone say that “My boss only gives me bad feedback and I just don’t understand it.”
It was a statement that stuck with me, because there really is no such thing as bad feedback. Any sort of input into your performance, even if you disagree with it, is still useful – because feedback is about perception and to be truly effective it is necessary to manage the perceptions of others.
One of the greatest gifts anyone can give you is advice and constructive criticism to help you improve – and it is important to see it that way. Many of us have blind spots, and often times we can be oblivious to the impact and recourse of our actions; and so the only way to find out and make corrections is if someone steps up to let us know. Many times this person is our manager (since when things get bad enough others may complain, your boss may feel obligated to step in), but if we are lucky we have others around us to shed light on the areas where we need to improve.
Of course though, hearing and receiving negative feedback can be a tough pill to swallow. No one wants to do poorly at their job, and almost everyone has a reason or justification for the mistakes that they make. However, part of getting feedback and improving is learning how to be receptive to criticism. Learning to be gracious, thoughtful, and not jump into explanations is the best way to ensure that others will coach you and continue to help you improve.
Here are some tips to help you develop your coach-ability:
- Don’t be defensive. One of the most important parts of getting feedback is resisting the urge to jump in with an explanation as to why. While it may be important and provide context, if the person giving you the feedback doesn’t ask for the reasons, it isn’t necessary to explain it (unless they ask of course). If you feel compelled to offer an explanation, you can always ask “Would you like me to explain?” before moving into the explanation. Otherwise, focus your energy on restraining your comments and listening to their perspective.
- Listen and ask clarifying questions. As the person gives you feedback, make sure you are listening and really hearing what they are saying. If you have trouble paying attention and focusing, be sure to take notes – this is also helpful when you are emotional and may have a hard time recalling the details. Ask good questions and explore their point of view. Some good questions are:
- What would you have done differently?
- How could I address this better in the future?
- Do you know someone else who does [insert thing here] well? What makes them great at it?
- Do you have any suggestions for resources I could use to improve?
- Listen for emotion. It is true that all feedback that is given may not be done with a positive and helpful intent. Therefore as the other person is delivering the feedback listen for cues on how they are feeling. Where is the feedback coming from? Are they just saying this to feel superior? If so, don’t take it personal and don’t jump in to explain (chances are they won’t be open to your response if they are feeling this way). Just be sure to be gracious and ….
- Say thank you. Yes, regardless of whether you agree or not, or if the feedback was delivered nicely or not, say thank you. Don’t feel the urge to respond or address the feedback right away with your plan of action. Something along the lines of “Thank you for letting me know, I am going to think about this for now and will follow up later.” That way you can make sure that when you do respond your head and words are calm and thought out – not reactive and potentially defensive. And regardless of the feedback …
- Adapt and make changes. As mentioned in the introduction, even feedback you may not agree with has some truth in it. Take time to reflect on why your actions/words had the effect that they did and how you can manage that better in the future. Yes, criticism may hurt but it doesn’t mean you failed or aren’t capable. In fact often times the people who take feedback and make noticeable improvements are the ones that see more success and recognition – not to mention are the ones that continue to receive help and coaching from those around them.
Asking for More!
And finally, if you want to get feedback, don’t be afraid to ask. Many managers won’t necessarily bring up ways you can be better unless they notice specific problems in your performance. Soliciting this feedback during your one-on-one meetings can be a great way to get proactive ideas and improvements to help you be even better in your role. I know some of the best advice was given I ever received, was given when I asked for it. And don’t just stop at your direct manager, coworkers and peers are also great sources for ideas and improvements.
If you are coachable and you seek out feedback you will improve and be even more awesome
If you want to read more about being a great teammate and improving you can check out more of my blog posts on being awesome. And if you have other ideas on how to be a great feedback receiver, definitely leave them in the comments!