Staying the Course: A Leader’s Guide to Garnering Feedback

Leaders are often thought of as successful people who are where they are because they are highly-skilled. Most likely they’ve climbed the “ladder,” leveraging feedback from events, peers, and supervisors to learn and adjust over time.

And now, they have “arrived.” So, do those who have arrived in a leadership position need to continue to receive feedback? Of course! Because arriving at a leadership position is certainly not the end of the journey.

Feedback is imperative for leaders. It tells us if we are on course or off course. And much like a GPS system in our car, it tells us whether we will make it to our destination.

Feedback comes in multiple ways. It can be organizational performance-based and include metrics tied to achieving business results. It can be relational performance-based and come from employees, co-workers, supervisors, the board, and 360 assessments.

Beyond feedback that is provided, it is important to ask for feedback regularly, know how to receive the feedback, and know what to do with the feedback. And, it’s important to remember that both positive and negative feedback is critical to a leader’s success.

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).

But instead of overlooking negative feedback, we should seek the golden nugget of information that helps us steer the course. To find it, it’s important not to shut-down or leverage other self-protective strategies when constructive criticism comes our way.

Below are a few safety tips for receiving feedback:

  • Choose those who give you feedback carefully; will they be honest with you? Do they have a desire to help you grow? Do you want to improve your relationship with them? Think about the reason you want feedback from them and let that lead your conversation.
  • Be sure you are authentically and sincerely wanting feedback.
  • Look at it as a source for course correction instead of a way to validate yourself.
  • Come from a place of curiosity. If you start to feel defensive or critical, shift back to curiosity.
  • Ask only questions of clarity and understanding to fully appreciate the nature of the feedback.
  • Summarize what you heard to make sure you have their intention correct.
  • Write down insights and learnings from the feedback, and how you may use it going forward.
  • If feedback is hard to hear, listen for what are the golden nuggets that will help you grow.
  • Appreciate the person for being willing to share the feedback with you.

If you are struggling to ask for feedback, here are some powerful questions to elicit conversation and help the person giving the feedback feel comfortable and be honest:

  • 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 or get a different result?
  • Is there something I can do to help you be more successful?
  • If you were in my shoes, what would you change? Why?

Not all feedback will be integrated or applied. However, if you adjust based on the feedback, follow up with the person later to let them know how they helped you and/or the organization.

Cheryl Foss
About the author

Cheryl Foss, a MEDI Executive Coach, has over 20 years of Leadership Development, Team Development, Strategy Development, Organization Design, and Change Management experience.
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