As I work with leaders across companies and countries, leader continue to ask for tips to help their people accept more feedback. And, although there are great tools for giving feedback, I believe the secret to giving feedback starts with the leader mastering the ability to receive feedback. That’s right. Your ability to receive feedback is the foundation for creating an environment that normalizes feedback so you can give meaningful feedback.
I find the way people receive feedback falls into three general habits: 1) “Help me understand so I can improve;” 2) “yes that’s true, but let me explain why I was justified;” and 3) “no, they are wrong.” Note, I use the word habit. These are patterns people tend to repeat across a variety of circumstances. Your habits are telling your people in every meeting and 1:1 whether or not feedback is safe.
To be the leader who improves faster and sets the model for the organization, use this proven formula I teach my clients. My clients who have applied this formula have literally saved millions of dollars, turned around internal battles, and transformed relationships.
Invite more: When someone provides you feedback, or what seems like an attack, the most common thing to do is defend. Yet, if you ask for more input you will reduce their hostility and you will discover the real issues.
Summarize: The temptation is to say, “I got it” and move on to another topic. Resist this urge and summarize what the person is saying about you.
Expand: Once you think you have what they have said, you need to find out if there is more to the story. People only give you what they think you will hear. Make it easy for them to give you the whole story. Ask, “What else?”
Seek clear recommendation: Rather than taking the wrong action, get an example of what “right” would look in the future. Clarity focuses your efforts.
Say “Thank you.” It is scary to give feedback. Giving sincere appreciation maintains the relationship. And, one of the biggest ways to truly show thanks is to take action and then get back to the person in the next week to confirm that your actions are in the right direction.
This formula helps you break the habit of explaining away why were justified for your behavior. What you think is a good reason looks like a nothing more than bold excuse to others.
If you want to create a better environment for giving feedback, start becoming world-class at receiving feedback. You may even make an extra million dollars.