The Gift of Feedback
When you receive feedback are you grateful or defensive? We’ve been taught that it’s far better to give than to receive. True. Buuuuut, when it comes to feedback it’s far better to receive. If you’re even mildly self-aware, you understand that all of us are incomplete and need to learn and grow.
Sadly, for many in senior leadership positions this isn’t the case. One time I was working with a senior executive who was frustrated with his senior leaders. Employee issues were on the rise, and there was no cohesion within his teams. There were definitely some very common gaps in his senior leadership team – individual high performers promoted without experience, no training on soft skills, poor communication, and general lack in listening. What was more telling, though was what I heard about the senior executive. It went a little something like this…smart, thoughtful, highly detailed, curious, challenging, open, plays favorites, horrible with people, uncaring, stuck in an echo chamber with sycophants.
There was some really good stuff there, but obviously some things that aren’t great to hear. Defensiveness took over. He wanted to know who provided the feedback. The who wasn’t important I noted, but the perception of the people side of his leadership. He disagreed and immediately started cataloging the slackers and disgruntled employees who didn’t want to put in the work. We talked about emotional intelligence, empathy, relationships, and trust. Over several sessions, his defensiveness and belief in being right remained. I continued to point out alternative approaches and things to think about.
Slowly, he started to turn around. Nah, I’m kidding. He didn’t change, but many in his leadership team began leaving. The exit interviews were brutal. Still, the feedback was ignored. My take is that he felt that taking responsibility was admitting failure (that’s a whole different topic). What he didn’t understand was that the real failure was in not accepting the feedback and seeing it as a gift. A gift that may have smelled like crap, but a gift nonetheless. When I receive feedback, I am self-reflective, challenge myself to learn something new from it and create one actionable thing to do differently. How about you? What do you do when receiving feedback?