One important communication skill that is important for leadership and success is our ability to receive feedback properly. The challenge of receiving feedback lies in the fact the person giving the feedback may not be doing so in a professional manner, making it even double-difficult to be open and accepting of the feedback. People who are however able to receive feedback properly and make the required changes are very authentic leaders who learn and grow continuously. Here are my suggestions to improve your ability to receive feedback:
- Strip out the emotions: As you listen to the feedback strip out all the emotions and unprofessional language and tone from the other person. try as hard as it may seem to focus only on the facts of the issue, ignoring the other stuff that cannot be substantiated.
- Listen with empathy: Do not listen to respond or listen to react - listen to understand. Do not be in a hurry to respond, rather be patient to hear the other person out completely
- Take down notes: Focus on the key issues being mentioned and take down notes where necessary. In a working environment, this will convey the seriousness that you attach to the feedback and help your boss or whoever else is giving the feedback feel more assured that you are open and willing to learn
- Ask clarifying questions: Ask questions to clarify aspects of the feedback that you are not sure about, to ensure that you get it right. Paraphrase the key issues raised also to check for understanding, and where you are not in agreement, reflect on the issues after the feedback session, and get back to your boss, rather than spend time and emotions right there arguing about issues that you are not in agreement with her.
- Come up with an action plan: After a feedback session, go back and outline the key steps that you will be taking based on the feedback received with timelines and milestones if applicable. Send your implementation plan to the giver of the feedback, and send periodic updates of this to her from time to time. This way you are taking responsibility for the changes expected and communicating your progress in a powerful and professional way.
The problem with feedback is that once both parties get carried away in the emotions it becomes a complete disaster. You can be the "bigger man" in your next feedback sessions by stripping out the emotions, listening with empathy, taking down notes, asking clarifying questions and developing and monitoring an action plan related to the changes required.