Have you ever looked forward to receiving criticism? If so, you belong to a small minority. 

Receiving constructive criticism is hardly an enjoyable activity for most people. As productive and necessary as it may be, the process often feels uncomfortable. Criticism can spawn insecurity and hurt, and humans are naturally inclined to avoid any situation that may cause pain. Our survival instincts often prevent us from welcoming or looking forward to the feedback process. 

While delivering feedback comes with its own set of guidelines, receiving feedback is a very similar process. Leaders have an opportunity to set an example and create a culture of growth by not only asking their team to provide feedback on their performance, but also by receiving the team’s suggestions with an open mind.

Embrace an Open Mindset

Feedback should never be personal nor vindictive. However, many people still feel insecure after receiving criticism. If feedback is viewed as wisdom, rather than a personal critique, then the entire experience can be viewed as genuinely helpful. As the subject of an evaluation, try coming to the table with an open mind and commitment to improve your performance. Be eager to embrace new information that will sharpen your skills and increase your productivity.

Utilize Acting Listening 

Listening isn’t just a courtesy or a second-nature response– it is undoubtedly a powerful tool. Part of having an open mind is seeking and recognizing the value of useful information provided to you by others. Practicing active listening will allow you to evaluate the topics under discussion. Without fully understanding the feedback, one can’t make the most effective improvements. Your improved listening skills can enhance your contribution to the whole conversation, such as by asking for specific examples, providing follow-up questions, or repeating back the feedback to make sure you understand. 

Be Wary of Defensiveness

We don’t always agree with the feedback we receive. We sometimes want to explain our side, defend our choices, and give context to our decision-making. Know the difference between providing an explanation that clears up a misunderstanding and using defensiveness to distract from the real issue. Disagreeing with an evaluation is acceptable– as well as voicing your position– but be sure to defend your claims with statistics or logic and avoid any strictly emotional attachment. 

Set a Plan

Most conversations we view as uncomfortable result in our trying to speed up the chat, especially when we’re receiving feedback. Why be critiqued for any longer than necessary? We don’t always ask the questions we should or create follow-up plans simply because we’re so eager for the conversation to be over. However, leaving an evaluation without having a clear game plan to improve defeats the purpose of the conversation. At the conclusion of feedback, one should have two to three concrete and useful changes to work on that are acknowledged by both parties.

Express Gratitude

Almost there! Before completely wrapping up, it is critical to show your appreciation for the help by saying “Thank you.” Whether you agree with the feedback or enjoyed the conversation, the person reviewing you spent time to consider your work, provide candid analysis, and welcome a discussion. Any and all feedback can be useful to strengthen your abilities and bring light to opportunities for improvement. 

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Most workers are never formally taught how to respond when they’re given feedback. They  may feel uncomfortable, they may feel vulnerable, but positive change comes from stepping outside our comfort zones and learning more about ourselves and our performance. 

Embracing feedback and seeking the wisdom of others is a practice that will strengthen both leaders and team members. For leaders looking to instill a culture of effective feedback, reach out to Knowted and ask about our executive coaching program.

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