How to Better Receive Negative Feedback
Though a critical skill for all managers is how to give effective performance feedback. It is the foundation for improving the performance of your team members. But far too few leaders and managers are skilled at how to better receive negative feedback.
Employees tell us that too many leaders and ignore, distrust or are even insulted by feedback that is at all derogatory. They also tell us that not enough upward feedback is followed up on. As you can imagine, this does not engender trust and commitment.
A Big Mistake
Negative reactions to negative feedback are a big mistake. Not only are leaders modeling the wrong way to receive negative feedback, but they are missing an opportunity to have a productive conversation and, perhaps, learn something important about the way they are perceived by their team and others.
Six Tips on How to Better Receive Negative Feedback
1. Assume Good Intentions
For now, assume the negative feedback was given with the intention of helping you to be a more successful leader. Consider it a gift.
2. Be Appreciative
Demonstrate your appreciation by saying, “Thank you.” After all, the feedback giver cared enough to seek you out and risk your disapproval.
3. Seek Clarity
Ask follow-up questions. Effective feedback requires more than general comments. Ask about specific behaviors that, presumably, need improvement. A comment that “you don’t seem to care about how hard we work” provides little to act upon. You need to understand when and in what context you exhibited behavior that seemed uncaring. And how does this behavior affect the giver of the feedback and the rest of the team?
4. Buy Time If You Need It
If you feel blind-sided, ask for time to think the feedback over and then set a time when you can discuss things further. You may need to think through what you’ve heard and evaluate what it means for you and your team.
5. Expand the Conversation
Try to determine if there’s something else going on. Perhaps the feedback giver feels you have slighted them in some way or they are going through a personal problem that is causing extra stress or this “uncaring attitude” is just the tip of an iceberg of more general discontent with the way you are leading the team.
6. Ask for Support
If you have decided the feedback is warranted and that your behaviors are having a toxic effect on the team and its goals, ask for help in improving the negative behavior. Show that you take the criticism seriously and that you care deeply about bonding with the team in a positive way. Ask for timely help in identifying examples of the negative behavior and set a time to review progress.
The Bottom Line
If you as a new manager can’t accept negative feedback in a positive way, how can you expect your team members to pay attention to the feedback you give them? It’s all about improving performance – theirs AND yours.
To learn more about how to better receive negative feedback, download 8 Reasons Why Leaders Need 360 Feedback
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