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Leadership Today - Practical Tips For Leaders

Jun 2, 2023


Many people are uncomfortable receiving feedback from others, even when the feedback is positive. We explore how to accept feedback with grace.



Welcome to episode 187 of the Leadership Today podcast where each week we share practical tips to improve your leadership. This week we explore how to accept feedback with grace.

How would you feel if I said “I have some feedback for you”? When I ask this question in leadership development programs, most people indicate that they would feel nervous, a sense of dread, that they would want to leave, or that they’re expecting bad news. It turns out that most of us assume feedback will be negative. When we receive negative feedback we might feel defensive, want to argue back, or even provide our own negative feedback without fully thinking through the implications. But many people even struggle receiving positive feedback. They might try to play it down, perhaps making a joke, or suggesting that the person providing the positive feedback is wrong. So how can we make the most of the feedback we receive, taking it on with a bit more grace? Here are six tips:

  1. Always say “thank you”. If it’s positive feedback, try not to dismiss the feedback. If it’s negative feedback, don’t get defensive but just share genuine thanks that the person has had the courage to speak with you.
  2. Don’t respond right away. If it’s positive feedback, come back to the person later to let them know what you appreciated about their feedback. If it’s negative feedback, come back to the person later with what you’ve taken out of their feedback. You’re likely to respond better with some additional time to think and reflect.
  3. Look for the truth in the feedback. If you have received positive feedback, assume that it’s true. For example, if someone says you seemed really confident when you were presenting to the team, even if you didn’t feel confident, the truth is that you appeared confident. If someone provides negative feedback, look for the kernel of truth. You may not agree with or accept all of the feedback, but there’s likely to be an element of truth in there somewhere.
  4. Separate intent and impact. You can set out with the best of intentions, but feedback is focused more on your impact than your intent. Focus on the impact you’re having and be clearer in sharing your intent.
  5. Provide further context if required. If you have received negative feedback, it can be helpful to provide further context. It’s important here not to be defensive or dismissive, but additional context can help others to understand why you did what you did.
  6. Let them know what you will do as a result. Whether it’s positive or negative feedback, let the person know what you’re planning to do based on the feedback they’ve provided. If it’s positive feedback it might be that you’ll try to keep doing this in the future. If it’s negative feedback, you might let them know what you will try to do differently.

Always remember that feedback is a gift. We may not always like the way the gift is wrapped, but there’s always value in feedback. Give these approaches a try and let me know what you think.