Receiving feedback with grace is a valuable leadership skill, yet many managers struggle with it. While we’re often quick to critique others, being on the receiving end involves an entirely different set of emotional and psychological skills.
Three Types of Feedback
Leadership consultants Douglas Stone and Sheila Heen describe three types of feedback conversations in Thanks for the Feedback: The Science and Art of Receiving Feedback Well (Penguin Books, 2014):
Appreciatory: Benefits: uplifting, acknowledging, reassuring
Pitfalls: can be unspecific or unclear, can be patronizing or inconsistent with the leader’s or organization’s values (a means to an end)
Instructive: Benefits: can teach and allow growth in skills, knowledge, capabilities or contribution to the organization
Pitfalls: can be misunderstood, misguided or self-serving (know-it-all)
Evaluative: Benefits: can establish a standard and clarify expectations
Pitfalls: can be harsh, hurtful or unfair
The Driving Force of Resistance
Humans are wired to avoid unsettling issues and, consciously or unconsciously, will avoid pain. These natural survival traits drive us as far away from the feedback loop as possible.
Thus, most leaders are reluctant to receive feedback—a continuing workplace challenge. We generally don’t want to receive difficult information about ourselves, so issues go unresolved and challenges grow deeper. Staff is afraid to approach certain subjects, and trust and unity suffer.
Fortunately, leaders can learn to master emotional conflicts through coaching. Fears can be converted into strengths, thereby creating positive results.
Four Challenges of Receiving Feedback
Leaders must address four primary challenges to conquer their natural resistance to feedback, note Stone and Heen:
- Listen and learn.
As you receive feedback, consider the positive side of the coin. There’s always something to learn about yourself, and the person providing feedback is trying to help—not hurt—you.
Focusing on personal and organizational improvement can help you overcome resistance, despite any fears or anxieties. Negative feelings needn’t override your ability to learn from feedback. View feedback through the lens of excelling and improving.
When assessing feedback, note that people say and interpret things differently. They use different verbiage and phrases. What’s heard may not be what’s meant. Asking questions helps achieve clarity. Taking sufficient time before you respond will afford an information-sharing dialogue. You’ll be rewarded with a new perspective, some of the best learning you can receive. There may be something you’re ready to see now that you couldn’t accept in the past.
- Recognize and manage resistance to feedback.
Being aware of your emotional needs and insecurities is the first step in conquering them. Your need to be accepted may present as three significant fears, all closely related:
- Fear of having to change: Change represents the unknown, and most people dread it. We lack control and are anxious about things going wrong. Change implies your current system is inadequate, so does this mean you’re inadequate?
- Fear of failure: Significant failure can be personally debilitating for some and regarded as a career killer. If your identity is strongly tied to your position, you may view any failures at work as failure as a person.
- Fear of rejection: The strongest fear of all, rejection is erroneously viewed as worthlessness or purposelessness. There are few more distressing feelings.
Our emotional needs and fears may cause us to exaggerate or misrepresent the feedback we receive. We turn a specific negative event into a character flaw, engaging in all-or-nothing thinking, note business professors James R. Detert and Ethan R. Burris in “Don’t Let Your Brain’s Defense Mechanisms Thwart Effective Feedback” (Harvard Business Review blog, August 2016). Black-and-white thinking can induce “catastrophizing” (believing things are worse than they are).
- Be confident when challenged.
As you receive feedback, three triggers will prompt you to categorize the provider’s comments, note Stone and Heen:
- Truth Triggers: If feedback is erroneous or off base, you can face it objectively and depersonalize it. Something that’s clearly untrue can be sorted out and dissected. Prompt the feedback giver to explain further or provide examples that work truth back into the equation.
- Relationship Triggers: Feelings about the feedback giver can taint your perspective, depending on trust levels. Do your feelings call the giver’s judgment into question? Recognizing this pitfall and filtering its effect can help you detach from the relationship and focus on the true issues.
- Identity Triggers: Feelings of inadequacy often trigger self-worth woes. Always remember that your leadership position doesn’t determine your worth. Questioning ourselves after negative feedback is normal, but relying on the value you’ve offered throughout your life can bring assurance. Screen out as many emotional components as possible.
- Grow despite unfair feedback.
Personal growth may be the last thing you think about after receiving negative feedback. Instead of seeing unfair remarks as a setback, choose to view them as an opportunity to grow smarter, stronger and wiser. The following strategies can help:
- Filter input. Which information is credible? Which feedback strains credulity? Discard comments you believe to be invalid, using some type of objective measuring stick.
- Try to see the feedback giver’s perspective. People have reasons for making statements. Depersonalize their comments to isolate nuggets of truth.
- Identify your blind spots, and do something about them. If you receive similar feedback from multiple sources, there’s likely something you’re not seeing.
- Be mindful of your historic response patterns. Others see them even if you don’t. Assess your emotions soberly to determine if they’re justified.
Are you working in a company where executive coaches provide leadership development to help leaders put strengths-based leadership into action? Does your organization provide executive coaching for leaders who need to build a company culture built on trust? Transformational leaders tap into their emotional intelligence and social intelligence skills to create a more fulfilling future.
One of the most powerful questions you can ask yourself is “Am I a transformational leader who inspires individuals and organizations to achieve their highest potential, flourish at work, experience elevating energy and achieve levels of effectiveness difficult to attain otherwise?” Emotionally intelligent and socially intelligent organizations provide executive coaching to help leaders create a culture where respect and trust flourish.
Working with a seasoned executive coach and leadership consultant trained in emotional intelligence and incorporating assessments such as the Bar-On EQ-i 2.0, Hogan Lead, CPI 260 and Denison Culture Survey can help leaders nurture strengths-based conversations in the workplace. You can become an inspiring leader who models emotional intelligence and social intelligence, and who inspires people to become fully engaged with the vision, mission and strategy of your company or law firm.
Working Resources is a San Francisco Bay Area executive coaching and leadership development firm helping innovative companies and law firms develop emotionally intelligent and mindful leaders. We help build coaching cultures of positive engagement.
...About Dr. Maynard Brusman
Dr. Maynard Brusman
Consulting Psychologist and Executive Coach|
Trusted Advisor to Executive Leadership Teams
Emotional Intelligence & Mindful Leadership Workplace Expert
I coach leaders to cultivate clarity, creativity, focus, trust, and full engagement in a purpose-driven culture.
Dr. Maynard Brusman is a consulting psychologist and executive coach. He is the president of Working Resources, a leadership consulting and executive coaching firm. We specialize in helping San Francisco Bay Area companies select and develop emotionally intelligent leaders.
Maynard is a highly sought-after speaker and workshop leader. He facilitates leadership retreats in Northern California and Costa Rica.
“Maynard Brusman is one of the foremost coaches in the United States. He utilizes a wide variety of assessments in his work with senior executives and upper level managers, and is adept at helping his clients both develop higher levels of emotional intelligence and achieve breakthrough business results. As a senior leader in the executive coaching field, Dr. Brusman brings an exceptional level of wisdom, energy, and creativity to his work.” — Jeffrey E. Auerbach, Ph.D., President, College of Executive Coaching
The Society for Advancement of Consulting (SAC) awarded rare "Board Approved" designations in the specialties of Executive Coaching and Leadership Development. Alan Weiss, Ph.D., President, Summit Consulting Group
Are you an executive leader who wants to be more effective at work and get better results?
Did you know that research has demonstrated, that the most effective leaders model high emotional intelligence, and that EQ can be learned? It takes self-awareness, empathy, and compassion to become a more emotionally intelligent leader.
Emotionally intelligent and mindful leaders inspire people to become fully engaged with the vision and mission of their company. Mindful leadership starts from within.
I am a consulting psychologist and executive coach. I believe coaching is a collaborative process of providing people with the resources and opportunities they need to self manage, develop change resiliency and become more effective. Utilizing instrumented assessments - clients set clear goals, make optimal use of their strengths, and take action to create desired changes aligned with personal values.
I have been chosen as an expert to appear on radio and TV, MSNBC, CBS Health Watch and in the San Francisco Chronicle, Wall Street Journal, USA Today, Time, Forbes and Fast Company.
Over the past thirty-five years, I have coached hundreds of leaders to improve their leadership effectiveness.
After only 6 months, one executive coaching client reported greater productivity, and more stress resiliency helping her company improve revenues by 20%. While this may depend on many factors most of my clients report similar satisfaction in their EQ leadership competence leading to better business results.
You can choose to work with a highly seasoned executive coach to help facilitate your leadership development and executive presence awakening what’s possible.
For more information, please go to http://www.workingresources.com, write to firstname.lastname@example.org, or call 415-546-1252.
Subscribe to Working Resources Newsletter: http://www.workingresources.com
Visit Maynard's Blog: http://www.workingresourcesblog.com
Connect with me on these Social Media sites.