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Why it's important to give and receive feedback as a leader

It is just as important to be good at receiving feedback as it is to be good at giving feedback. Direct and timely feedback allows employees to always know where they stand, understand their strengths and weaknesses so they can improve their skills and grow. Being a good steward of their trust in your feedback means that you are open to receiving feedback that could lead to improvements for the team, and for the business. Giving and receiving feedback well can improve feedback culture and motivate employees by helping them understand the importance of their work and their voice.


What is it?

Feedback is an essential component of self-awareness. It is the “tough truths”, the areas you cannot see (blind spots), that need corrective action. Left unattended, these “blind spots” could result in lost credibility, damage climate or culture and trust.

Why is it important?

We don’t know what we don’t know. We ALL have blind spots. When it comes to self-awareness, most of us do not have the tools necessary to figure it out on our own. Feedback from others is essential. Feedback is truly a gift, when delivered with the right intentions and with professionalism.

Why is it tough to practice?

Receiving feedback requires vulnerability and openness to criticism. Knowing what to accept and what to discard. Giving feedback requires courage, honesty and the ability to deliver difficult messages that address blindspots (behaviors, issues etc), while preserving the relationship.

Receiving Feedback

Feedback is one of the most valuable professional development resources we have, though many do not access it. Feedback provides valuable insight that will be beneficial to you as you develop/strengthen your self-awareness, communication and connection skills. Feedback enlightens us to our blind spots. If blind spots are left unattended, they could negatively impact your credibility as a leader.

Seeking feedback is a high-trust behavior and will build trust in your team.

Determine how you will recruit Feedback

  • Who will you seek feedback from?

  • Define the format (in writing, in person, etc)

  • What has been the most effective form of feedback for your growth?

  • Know your personal challenges (how you respond when receiving the tough truths)

  • Have an open mind and be receptive to what is shared. Your role is to listen and seek greater clarification (i.e. ask for examples if you need them). Do not take a defensive response or attempt to explain or justify. The person giving you feedback is exercising courage. They care about you and your success and have invested time in preparing to provide the feedback that YOU have asked for.

Self-Reflection piece:

  • What are the positive/negative impacts of feedback?

  • How have you grown through feedback?

  • What challenges do you have with receiving feedback?

Giving Feedback

For all the reasons it is important to receive feedback, it is equally as important to give feedback. Feedback is a tool that helps your team evaluate themselves and their work as well as how others perceive them. Feedback delivered in the right way with the right intentions, can lead to outstanding performance.

When giving feedback, there are a few things that can help to get the results you want (improvement).

First check your intentions. Why are you giving the feedback? Do you genuinely want to improve the situation or are you angry with performance? If you are giving feedback because you are angry, take time to compose yourself because feedback that is harsh or offensive will backfire for you, the individual and your team. Preparation and timing are key for successful feedback conversations. Strive to come from a place of understanding first and make sure to point out the positives before you transition to what needs to improve. Beginning a feedback conversation with positive statements opens the human spirit. The individual is postured to be more receptive to areas needing improved.

Give feedback in real time. If you wait a week to address an issue, no one will remember all of the details. That makes it harder to figure out what could be done better. Feedback shouldn’t be a surprise either, it shouldn’t wait until there is a buildup. For example, a team member shouldn’t be surprised by anything brought up at their yearly review. Everything should have been discussed as it happened, giving the team member a chance to improve before their review. Gardening provides a great analogy for time appropriate feedback. A gardener removes weeds on a regular basis, so that they do not takeover the producing plants and impact their growth and productivity. He/she also addresses/eliminates anything toxic (insects, groundhogs... negative behaviors, underperformance et). that would negatively impact the garden (i.e. team).

Give feedback regularly and be specific. When something needs to be said, say it. Don’t wait. This keeps issues from building. Be specific about what needs to improve. This also goes for positive feedback. Let your team know if they did something well. Be specific about it so they know that you are paying attention.

Focus on behavior, not the individual. Behavior should always be separate from who the individual is. This will help the individual to take the feedback constructively, rather than taking it personally.

If you have to criticize something, it should be done in private. If a team member made a mistake, the mistake should never be brought up during a team meeting. This will lead to resentment and loss of trust.

It is so important for your team and for your own growth to be able to give and receive feedback effectively. Keep practicing!


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