When I was in my early 20’s I started one of my first leadership roles and very early on I was asked to complete a 360 review. If you’ve never heard of a 360 review, it’s basically an opportunity to get feedback from all sides. You, yourself will provide feedback on your performance and then you will get feedback from your manager, your peers and your team members. In my case, I received feedback from around 30 individuals.
Getting feedback even in the best of circumstances is pretty scary but to get it from all sides when you’re brand new in your role is terrifying. I went ahead with the review and ended up getting some brilliant feedback. Plenty of positives and lots to feel great about. I should have been on top of the world.
But I wasn’t. There, hidden amongst all the positive affirmation were 10 little words that stood out like a saw thumb. “I don’t think Bec is capable in her new role.”
Excuse me? What did you say?
I’m what? Not good at my job?
Reading this it was as if someone literally took an 800-page book and whacked me across the face. Whatever positive increase the rest of the feedback had done to my self-esteem was destroyed by the short thought of one person.
Over the course of the next week, I analysed every interaction I’d had at work over the last month. Every conversation, every time I had demonstrated my capability — or lack thereof — to someone I’d asked to give me feedback. I systematically went through my list of feedback givers looking for any evidence that could point me to the culprit. It consumed my every minute.
Until one day it didn’t anymore. Finally after about a week feeling less than adequate I decided to change my thinking. Instead of using the feedback as another excuse to doubt myself, I made a decision that I was NEVER going to let anyone feel that I wasn’t capable again!
Viktor Frankl said that “Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.”
If feedback is the stimulus then our choice is how we take it on board. In all honesty, humbly accepting and using feedback can be incredibly difficult, however, the best leaders are not just great at giving feedback, they’re great at receiving it too.
Why does it matter? Receiving feedback makes us more aware of our blind spots. We don’t know what we don’t know so if we don’t receive feedback, how can we ever expect to change or to grow. Regular feedback helps us to shape ourselves. Importantly, it helps to put us in control of our own personal brand (which we know belongs to anyone that has a perception of us) and create more intention around how we want to be perceived.
So how do you get good at receiving feedback?
Ask for it
Develop a network of trusted sources and ask them to provide you with plenty of meaningful feedback. Make sure that you include people whose opinions really matter to you. If opinions don’t matter then it’s highly unlikely you will do anything with them. Try and ensure your network can provide you with feedback from all angles. Much like the 360 model, getting feedback from the widest variety of sources helps you to gain an objective understanding of how you’re perceived.
Don’t try and argue, explain a point or defend yourself. Doing so will inevitably ensure that you no longer receive feedback from that person again. Instead, be gracious and respond with a thank you. Be grateful for the opportunity to learn something new about yourself. After all, it’s the criticisms that can be particularly valuable if you’re prepared to truly listen.
Sit on it
You don’t have to respond to feedback straight away. In fact, most of the time our initial reaction is not our best. Take time to digest and evaluate feedback. By sitting in the space and really digesting it, you’re able to make the right choice as to what to do next. It took me a full week to really understand the meaning behind the feedback I received in my story above and by giving myself that time, I was able to correctly decide the best way to use it.
A final word on feedback — you always have the power!
Learning to receive feedback in the right way really can be invaluable and as with any skill, the more feedback you get, the better you’ll become at receiving it. There is one thing however that ensures that as the receiver, you always have the power and it comes back to Viktor Frankl.
You see, we ALWAYS have the power to choose our response.
There will be times that you genuinely don’t agree with the feedback you’ve received and as long as it’s for good reason then that is absolutely fine. We don’t always have to take feedback on board and that’s especially important to know for the times’ feedback is intentionally hurtful, discriminatory or just a dirty tactic. Whatever happens, the same rules apply. Just be gracious and let it go.
I mentioned above that I was never going to let anyone question my ability again. In fact, someone did question my ability after that moment. It was hurtful but I realised that in that moment, their feedback said more about them than it did about me and I was able to let it go.
My challenge to you — a call to action
Asking for feedback isn’t easy but you have to start somewhere. Over the next week, I challenge you to ask 5 different people for 5–10 words they would use to describe you. Once you have all your words, seperate them into 2 lists. The first list should be all the words that you would use to describe yourself and the second should include all the words that you wouldn’t have used to describe yourself.
This second list is your feedback and with it comes opportunity. Ask yourself some questions:-
- Is there a gap between words that I would use and words that others are using?
- What are my blindspots?
- What can I do with this information?
My second challenge to you is to leave me your feedback. What do you like? What don’t you agree with? Why?
Until next time,