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Receiving Feedback

When someone gives you feedback, often you will have an emotional response. This response (often defensive) causes you to stop listening and:

  • dismiss the feedback. "I don't really do that"
  • rationalize. "I did that one time, but it's not really me"
  • get scared. "I'm bad at this, and this person noticed"

To get back on track, instead of pushing back on the feedback, lean into it. Of course it's not easy to suppress your emotions and turn back to the rational part of your brain. If you can manage, try to get more feedback, or more depth by asking these questions:

  • What's an example of when you've seen me exhibit this behaviour?
  • To confirm I'm correctly understanding you, is this what you're saying?
  • What's an example of what "good" or "killing it" looks like? What do you think I should have done?
  • Who do you think is awesome at this?
  • What would you expect as a 10% improvement?
  • How does this affect your view of my overall performance?
  • If you were me, what's the first thing you'd try to change?

After you've received all the feedback, it's time to reflect on what you've heard. Even if you disagree with the feedback, look for the kernel of truth in it. Ask these questions:

  • What part of this feedback is true?
  • Have I ever seen someone else making this mistake?
  • Where, exactly, do I disagree with this? Can I put my perspective into specific words?

Empower your colleagues to share more

Instead of asking a broad question like, "do you have any feedback for me?", try getting more specific.

  • What's one thing I can do to support you?
  • How can I exceed expectations?
  • How can this deliverable be 10% better?
  • What would make you "love" this instead of just "like" it?
  • Was I saying "like" too much in the meeting?
  • Did you feel comfortable sharing your opinion in our last meeting even if you disagreed with the group?
  • Could you rank my performance 0-5? What could I have done differently to make it a 5?

Sometimes "feedback" is a loaded term. To get people to open up, try swapping "advice" for "feedback." Or, if you are just trying to get the conversation going, ask for tips. "Have you got any tips for me?" is more approachable than "Have you got any feedback for me?"