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Beyond Our Egos: Responding to Critical Feedback by Digging In and Doing

By Bethany Whitted

Beyond Our Egos: Responding to Critical Feedback by Digging In and Doing

By Bethany Whitted

We believe that creating a culture of feedback is a critical step to becoming a successful company that breeds engagement among its ranks. Making this a reality begins with leadership.  

As a leader, you set the tone for how feedback should be received. The way you respond to feedback, for better or for worse, will send a message to employees. You’ll either communicate that feedback is a gift, setting into motion a rich culture of growing and learning together or you’ll send the message that feedback is not welcome, resulting in a stifled and toxic workplace. Further, you’ll miss out on growth opportunities that come from listening to feedback and letting it grow and shape you as a leader. 

One of the main hurdles when it comes to receiving feedback well is our own egos and self-images. When we hear feedback about ourselves that doesn’t align with our self-image, we tend to respond by denying or defending. We may deny the feedback, insisting that it simply isn’t true of us. Or we may agree that the feedback is true, but have a justification for our behavior (we tend to be masters at justifying ourselves). 

When we immediately deny or defend ourselves, we close the conversation, forfeit a growth opportunity, and damage the relationship. Ultimately, this will hurt your team and company as a whole. Remember: feedback is a gift! 

Rather than denying and defending, your challenge as a leader is to respond to feedback by digging in and doing 

To resist denying and defending, and to instead dig in and do, we must wholeheartedly embrace these four ideas: 

  • I am not perfect and I am looking to improve. 
  • I have blind spots that others may be able to see. 
  • I trust that my team members give honest feedback. 
    • Even if I disagree with them, I trust that they are giving me an honest picture of their perception, and their perception has value. If I deny their perception, I’m eroding the trust between us. 
  • The insights from my team members are essential to my growth and the success of our company. 

Digging in. 

Let’s start with digging in. Often, we don’t initially see the truth in the feedback we receive. (I’m not THAT bad at responding to emails? Or I really don’t interrupt people in meetings unless I absolutely need to). When this happens, it’s time to quiet your initial emotions and reactions and dig into the feedback you’ve received. Here’s three steps to successfully digging in: 

  1. Thank the feedback giver. If you respond to constructive feedback by genuinely thanking the feedback giver, you have just taken a massive step towards moving beyond your ego and creating a feedback culture!  
  2. Ask clarifying questions. There’s huge potential for miscommunication when giving and receiving feedback. Mitigate the potential for miscommunication by asking clarifying questions. A good way to do this is to summarize the complaint you’ve heard and ask if you’ve summarized it correctly.
  3. Ask what change they would like to see. This communicates to the feedback giver that we value their input and are open to changing. It also gives the feedback giver an opportunity to get practical about what exactly they are looking for from you.  

By thanking, asking clarifying questions, and asking what change they would like to see, you have successfully dug into the feedback. You’ve set in motion a productive, trust building response to feedback. Importantly – this is NOT the last step. If all we do is dig in, we haven’t closed the feedback loop. The next step is to do something. 

Doing. 

Translating employee feedback into behavior change puts your words into action. It signals to employees that their input matters. Don’t be the leader who only listens empathetically but doesn’t take action. Here’s three steps to putting feedback into action: 

  1. Set a goal. You’ve received some feedback that points out a discrepancy in what you do and what you could do. Set a specific, measurable goal to respond to the feedback. 
  2. Strive towards the goal. Once you’ve set the goal, strive for it! 
  3. Follow up. This closes the feedback loop. Follow up with the feedback giver and ask how you’re doing. This will build a relationship of trust.  

When employees see leadership digging in and doing, their respect and trust is earned. They’re far more likely to respond to your feedback in the same way. Some leaders may think that digging in and doing might be seen as “weak.” The reality is the opposite! Strong leaders are the ones who are able to overcome their egos and respond to feedback by digging in and doing.  

If this approach to feedback begins at the top and is done in an open way that can be seen, embraced, and adopted by the entire company, then great things will happen. Manage 4 Performance™ is designed to support your team on this undertaking. It gives you a place to track goals, record issues and feedback, and lets you come back to feedback from both sides so nothing is left to fester or be forgotten.   

We believe that creating a culture of feedback is a critical step to becoming a successful company that breeds engagement among its ranks. Making this a reality begins with leadership.  

As a leader, you set the tone for how feedback should be received. The way you respond to feedback, for better or for worse, will send a message to employees. You’ll either communicate that feedback is a gift, setting into motion a rich culture of growing and learning together or you’ll send the message that feedback is not welcome, resulting in a stifled and toxic workplace. Further, you’ll miss out on growth opportunities that come from listening to feedback and letting it grow and shape you as a leader. 

One of the main hurdles when it comes to receiving feedback well is our own egos and self-images. When we hear feedback about ourselves that doesn’t align with our self-image, we tend to respond by denying or defending. We may deny the feedback, insisting that it simply isn’t true of us. Or we may agree that the feedback is true, but have a justification for our behavior (we tend to be masters at justifying ourselves). 

When we immediately deny or defend ourselves, we close the conversation, forfeit a growth opportunity, and damage the relationship. Ultimately, this will hurt your team and company as a whole. Remember: feedback is a gift! 

Rather than denying and defending, your challenge as a leader is to respond to feedback by digging in and doing 

To resist denying and defending, and to instead dig in and do, we must wholeheartedly embrace these four ideas: 

  • I am not perfect and I am looking to improve. 
  • I have blind spots that others may be able to see. 
  • I trust that my team members give honest feedback. 
    • Even if I disagree with them, I trust that they are giving me an honest picture of their perception, and their perception has value. If I deny their perception, I’m eroding the trust between us. 
  • The insights from my team members are essential to my growth and the success of our company. 

Digging in. 

Let’s start with digging in. Often, we don’t initially see the truth in the feedback we receive. (I’m not THAT bad at responding to emails? Or I really don’t interrupt people in meetings unless I absolutely need to). When this happens, it’s time to quiet your initial emotions and reactions and dig into the feedback you’ve received. Here’s three steps to successfully digging in: 

  1. Thank the feedback giver. If you respond to constructive feedback by genuinely thanking the feedback giver, you have just taken a massive step towards moving beyond your ego and creating a feedback culture!  
  2. Ask clarifying questions. There’s huge potential for miscommunication when giving and receiving feedback. Mitigate the potential for miscommunication by asking clarifying questions. A good way to do this is to summarize the complaint you’ve heard and ask if you’ve summarized it correctly.
  3. Ask what change they would like to see. This communicates to the feedback giver that we value their input and are open to changing. It also gives the feedback giver an opportunity to get practical about what exactly they are looking for from you.  

By thanking, asking clarifying questions, and asking what change they would like to see, you have successfully dug into the feedback. You’ve set in motion a productive, trust building response to feedback. Importantly – this is NOT the last step. If all we do is dig in, we haven’t closed the feedback loop. The next step is to do something. 

Doing. 

Translating employee feedback into behavior change puts your words into action. It signals to employees that their input matters. Don’t be the leader who only listens empathetically but doesn’t take action. Here’s three steps to putting feedback into action: 

  1. Set a goal. You’ve received some feedback that points out a discrepancy in what you do and what you could do. Set a specific, measurable goal to respond to the feedback. 
  2. Strive towards the goal. Once you’ve set the goal, strive for it! 
  3. Follow up. This closes the feedback loop. Follow up with the feedback giver and ask how you’re doing. This will build a relationship of trust.  

When employees see leadership digging in and doing, their respect and trust is earned. They’re far more likely to respond to your feedback in the same way. Some leaders may think that digging in and doing might be seen as “weak.” The reality is the opposite! Strong leaders are the ones who are able to overcome their egos and respond to feedback by digging in and doing.  

If this approach to feedback begins at the top and is done in an open way that can be seen, embraced, and adopted by the entire company, then great things will happen. Manage 4 Performance™ is designed to support your team on this undertaking. It gives you a place to track goals, record issues and feedback, and lets you come back to feedback from both sides so nothing is left to fester or be forgotten.   

Post Categories: Insights
Date Published: Sep 21, 2021
Post Categories: Insights
Date Published: Sep 21, 2021