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Making the Most of the Feedback You're Given

Making the Most of the Feedback You’re Given

We talk a lot as leaders about how to give feedback, and it takes many years of experience to actually get good at it. What we don’t talk about nearly as much is what to do when we’re on the other side of the table! 

Receiving good quality, helpful, accurate feedback is essential if you want to reach your performance potential. This is why professional sportspeople have coaches – they might be at the very top of their game, but they know they still need someone to look at what they’re doing from an outside perspective, to see the things that they can’t see for themselves.

And they value this process highly.

So, if that’s the case for the people who routinely stretch themselves to the peak of their capabilities, why are we so averse to receiving feedback in a work context? One reason is that it can trigger our natural threat response, and we become defensive.

It’s important to remember that we judge others by their actions, but we judge ourselves by our intent. 

When we hear a negative or critical message, we tend to gloss over any positives that are there, and jump straight into justification mode. When we do this, we lose the ability to listen to and absorb the words that are being spoken. We’re too busy constructing the story in our heads to explain why the boss doesn’t understand, or hasn’t evaluated us accurately.

But, feedback is a gift. If we work for someone who’s prepared to risk their own feelings and emotional security to tell us something that will help us to perform better, we should be incredibly grateful.

In Ep.116 of the podcast, I go into depth on a few examples of how different people have reacted in the past to the feedback I’ve given them. The difference in all the responses I’ve witnessed comes down to one thing: choice. Some chose to ignore or discount the feedback… others chose to listen, respond, and work at self-improvement.

To do this takes a level of humility, and a decent measure of self-confidence.

If youre receiving feedback regularly, not just as part of the formal performance assessment cycle, then make sure you listen very carefully, because if your boss is in the habit of giving regular feedback, it’s likely that they’re calling it the way they see it.

Sometimes, though, you’ll find yourself in a situation where you only receive vague, positive feedback. If this is the case, then it’s likely that the feedback isn’t well-thought out or targeted, so you have to question it… literally!

If you only receive positive feedback, then you have no way of knowing what you can work on to get better. A great question to ask a boss who only ever gives positive feedback is something like this: “I appreciate the feedback, but in the interests of helping me to reach my full potential, what’s the one thing I could do to improve?

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