Maximize the Gift of Feedback

*Don't forget to take my Blog Reader's Survey for your chance to win a $50 Amazon gift card! This week we have been talking on the Monday blog and the Leadership Tip of the Week about RECEIVING FEEDBACK.

Most of us are pretty good about giving feedback. No worries, just ask me what I think about something you are doing and I will give my opinion. Piece of cake.

But when someone gives me feedback, a completely different set of emotions comes out of me.



Sorry if that heading created some bad memories about high school chemistry! This idea of someone giving us feedback can rock our world. Receiving feedback creates a state of disequilibrium. You become unbalanced, at least temporarily. The process brings about at worst abject fear for some, and at best a mild feeling of discomfort for others.

It is totally natural to be somewhat defensive when you are given feedback. Even those who say they love it have had to work very hard to get past the initial shock of absorbing someone else thoughts on your work product, or even the things that make up who you are as a person.

Inside of this discomfort is where your true growth as a leader resides.

At the gym where my wife and I work out, someone has written the following quote on the wall: “Pain is the recognition that fear is leaving your body.” When we realize we have nothing to fear, feedback can be seen as a positive leadership growth tool.

Growing via Feedback

When you receive feedback, the first step to growth is to notice the discomfort. Once you are aware of the pain you have two choices:

1. Listen to it and accept it. 2. Listen to it and reject it.

In both of the above scenario’s two things occur:

  1. You must listen to the feedback. Not just hear it, but really listen to it. One of my favorite reads of 2015 has been Edgar Schein’s “Humble Inquiry." Schein asks his readers to do a better job of listening and really try to connect with what the other person is saying. Drop your defensiveness and listen to them. Suspend your need to be right so that you can hear what the other person is saying to you.
  2. After listening to the feedback, realize that whether you accept or reject it you can not go back to the previous state of reality before the feedback was given. Now you know. This is what change theorists call dialectic theory.

Dialectic theory says that two people exchanging thoughts, each with their idea of the best way forward, results in "colliding events, forces, or contradictory values that compete with each other for domination and control.” (Van De Ven & Poole, Academy ol Management Review 1935, Vol. 20, No. 3, 510-540.) This means that when feedback is given, two ideas collide with each other creating a new reality for each person involved. If those involved continue communicating they can move toward a common understanding of each other. If the communication stops after the feedback is given, then each party moves forward making their own claim on what is now reality.

Your Homework 

My desire is that as a leader you get better at receiving feedback. It is how you will grow.

Feedback is a gift. Gifts need not bring fear.

Here is your assignment: Ask someone to give you some feedback around a big project you are working on. Resist the temptation to judge the intention of the person who is giving the feedback. Resist the temptation to defend your actions. Just listen to the message they have for you. The idea here is for you to learn and grow...not be right in your own eye.

If you do this homework, why not leave a comment below? I would love to hear your story. If you don't want to leave the comment below send me an email at I would love to hear what receiving feedback was like for you.

See you on Monday.

Best Hopes,


P.S. On Monday's blog I have a great tip for you on how you can prevent leadership failure. You won't want to miss it.