Do leaders need feedback?

Feedback is imperative for leaders.  There are two kinds of feedback that leaders receive, positive and negative.  Both types of feedback are critical to a leader’s success.  Feedback tells us if we are on course or off course.  Much like a GPS system in our car, it tells us whether we will make it to our destination.

Feedback can come in all sorts of ways.  Feedback can include metrics, proximity to achieving business results, employees, co-workers, the board, 360 assessments, etc.  As a leader, it is important to ask for feedback regularly and know how to receive the feedback as well as what to do with the feedback.  Often, when we hear negative feedback we choose to ignore the feedback (view it as not helpful) or discount the messenger (become angry or see the person as negative or resistant).

It is important that when we ask for feedback we look for the ‘golden’ nugget of information that will help steer us on course.  Below are a few safety tips for receiving feedback:

  • Be sure you are authentically and sincerely wanting the feedback. It’s good to look at it as a source of course correction instead of as a way to validate yourself.
  • Stay in a place of curiosity and pay attention if you start to feel defensive or critical, shift to being curious.
  • Ask only questions of clarity and understanding to fully understand the nature of the feedback. Summarize to the other person what you heard to make sure you heard what they were intending.
  • Write down the insights and learnings from the feedback and how you may use it going forward.
  • Appreciate the person for being willing to share the feedback with you.
  • Not all feedback you will necessarily integrate or apply, however, if you have adjusted based on the feedback, follow up with the person at a later date to let them know how the feedback helped you and/or the organization.

In addition, there are some powerful questions to help elicit feedback and help the person giving the feedback feel comfortable and more honest.  Ask questions such as:

  • On a scale of 1-10, how am I doing in this (fill in the blank) area? What would help me move it closer to a 10?
  • What is something I do that is valuable and I should do more of? Why?
  • Is there something I can do differently to help communicate with you better?
  • Is there something I can do to help you be more successful?
  • If you were in my shoes, what would you change tomorrow? Why?
Photo of Cheryl D. Foss, MSW

written by:

Cheryl D. Foss, MSW

Executive Coach