It also requires you to balance being vulnerable and having a thick skin.
Every quarter, we solicit feedback from our consulting team.
And every quarter, we go through the somewhat painful exercise of reviewing that feedback.
This review forces our leadership team to hear things that do not feel great to hear. But it’s one of the most important things we can do to keep evolving the company.
Building a culture that is open and honest can sometimes be mistaken as being easy.
To be open and honest—and still functional—your team needs the right amount of ego. That allows them to hear potentially critical feedback without being totally crushed.
On the flip side, you have to create an environment where people feel safe enough to honestly give feedback. If they’re worried about jeopardizing their standing in the company, they aren’t telling you the truth.
It’s great for morale and for getting perspective on your accomplishments.
But victories aren’t good for driving change in the organization.
To do that, you have to hear the hard stuff.
A few tips for using feedback constructively:
- Approach feedback with your defenses down as much as possible. It’s not personal: it’s business.
- Assume the feedback means what it says, at least at first.
- Lean into the difficult answer. Don’t rush to make excuses, rationalize, or explain away what you’re hearing.
- Listen, listen, listen.
- After you’ve gotten the big picture, dive into specific feedback. What’s accurate, what’s relevant, what’s a little overblown? What’s a big deal vs a small annoyance? You’ve likely got a mix.
- Analyze the feedback and draw your own conclusions.
- Decide what to do next. You may be able to address feedback right away, or it may take 6, 9, even 12 months before you can focus on a solution.
- Circle back to your team to let them know what the plan is, along with the timeline.
- Don’t expect to feel awesome right away! This is difficult, but undertake this exercise with as little emotion as possible. It’s hard to know there’s a problem and not be able to fix it immediately. But that may be the right decision in the moment.
If you’re an attentive leader, much of the feedback you receive won’t surprise you. It will reinforce the issues you’ve already identified. In its own way, that’s reassuring. At least you and your team agree on what the problems are.
Feedback isn’t easy to deal with—but neither is running a business.
For entrepreneurs who need some help using feedback constructively, Executive Coaching can be a great path forward. Struggles with feedback are usually a sign that there’s some head trash that needs to be cleaned up.