Leadership: How do you handle feedback?

The further you get into management and leadership, the farther away you might get from personal feedback. Yes, the boss will certainly let you know what you are doing wrong, but what if you ARE the boss? Is there anyone or any way you receive feedback?


Receiving feedback is not always easy. Seldom is the feedback positive as in “hey great job” or “wow, you really crushed that moment”. If you are getting this positive feedback on a regular basis, you are in rare air. Enjoy it.

[shareable cite=”Jack Canfield”]Leaders cannot work in a vacuum. They may take on larger, seemingly more important roles in an organization, but this does not exclude them from asking for and using feedback. In fact, a leader arguably needs feedback more so than anyone else. It’s what helps a leader respond appropriately to events in pursuit of successful outcomes. [/shareable]

No, sadly, feedback is usually more negative. There is never a need for more negative feedback. You can find it often. For every great decision you make, someone somewhere will be doubting or objecting. That comes with the territory of being a manager.

How do you handle feedback?

There are three ways that people receive and react to feedback.

Categorical Denial

There are those who profess a tough skin and merely choose to ignore feedback. They take the position that no one knows my job better than me. Anyone who disagrees can take a hike. Doubt me and I will show you.

If the feedback is anonymous,as it sometimes may be, the person operating in denial merely brushes it off without any response.

That’s the kind of manager you want to avoid. Denial is not just a river in Egypt. It’s a sad position to be in as a leader. There is always an opportunity to grow and learn. If you reject feedback, you have shut the door on learning. Of course mistakes will get made.

Regardless of how flawlessly you think your decisions can be, there is room for error. Error creates a natural feedback loop. Whether your team was impacted directly or indirectly by your error, you need feedback to make the right corrections. For every action there is a reaction.

I’m So Mad

The next response may be to just get angry. The mindset sounds something like this “I am so mad they tried to call me out” or “I am going to be sure they pay for such an insubordinate move”.

Anger and hostility toward feedback is a narrow and uninformed response. As mentioned above, there is always room t grow as a leader. If you choose to reject such growth, you will stay stuck at one level for a very long time.

There is one other downside to getting angry about it. People will stop communicating. If you explode every time someone points something out, well-meaning subordinates will give up. They will cease to participate in growing the team.

Emotional Intelligence

A leader with a higher degree of emotional intelligence will welcome feedback and administer it properly. Sure you need to analyze the details. Some may be bunk, but the majority is usually valuable. Consider the source as credible or simply disgruntled. There are always different possibilities.

Once the source and the substance of the feedback is understood, then an emotionally intelligent leader will take it in. They will distil the teaching moment. The recommendation or suggestion will be seen through an objective lens of consideration for improvement.

If there is learning to be done, then this leader will do so; applying the feedback as a positive, looking for the gain from the experience.

How do you respond to feedback?

What is your natural mode? For anyone who wants to be a better leader, thee is only one response. You take feedback in, process it, distil it, and learn from it.

[shareable cite=”Bill Gates”]We all need people who will give us feedback. That’s how we improve.[/shareable]

[reminder]Share your most recent experience dealing with feedback.[/reminder]

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