Why Knowing how to Receive Feedback Gets you out of the Ditch

You are a middle manager in a large technology company. You are feeling very stressed because of being behind on key work deliverables. This you suspect has added to your feelings of stress and thoughts that things are out of your control. Your senior manager recently requested you add another project to your workload. You are thinking things have gone from bad to worse! You would like to let your senior manager know your workload is too heavy with too many competing deadlines, but you are afraid for many reasons. 

The above is the true story a client of mine experienced a few years ago.  What helped this person to address the challenges above and have a very productive  meeting with their senior manager was coaching the client on how to prepare for receiving feedback.

Just as it is important to give feedback in order to keep clients moving forward, clients too need to be shown how to receive feedback. The literature on feedback is quite limited on how to receive feedback; the predominant emphasis is on how to give feedback. Effective feedback is only as effective as the way it is delivered and received.  Clients need to be prepared to receive feedback to truly keep moving forward.  Below is an excerpt from our IDARE Work: Coaching Performance manual on how to prepare to receive feedback:

  1. Prepare to receive feedback. This includes gathering information on the activities, projects or interactions on which you would like to receive feedback.
  2. Notify your direct report you will have a few specific questions to ask after they have given you feedback. This prepares the direct report and takes the surprise out of now being the one of whom questions are asked. This also reduces any assumptions you are being defensive or unappreciative of the feedback they have given.
  3. Be specific about the areas you would like to receive feedback. Being too general or too broad might result in a deluge of feedback that requires more time and effort to sift through. Being specific cuts to the chase and offers up specific, timely feedback.
  4. Recognize that not everyone has mastered the skill in giving feedback; therefore look at the information totally rather than selectively. What this means is analyzing everything as if it is all true and always with the following question in mind: Where is the kernel of truth in this? This is why it is so important not to be too broad or general in your request for feedback: Being specific narrows down the depth and breadth of information to analyze.
  5. Help the person giving the feedback by compiling specific questions that relate to a specific task/project, for example. These sample questions could be sent ahead to help them prepare:
  • What did you find worked well?
  • What area (s) can use improvement?
  • What would you suggest for things to be improved?
  • What specific actions would you recommend I continue doing?
  • What specific actions would you recommend I stop doing?

Do refrain from defending, justifying, being offended or explaining your actions when receiving the feedback. Considering the purpose for feedback is growth and advancement; defending yourself or being offended will close your ability to receive totally rather than selectively, which will limit how much you can actually grow and learn from the experience.

Thank the person who provided you with the feedback, and close by giving them some feedback. Do so by asking permission first then consider the following strategy:

  • Acknowledge and thank the person for the time taken to give the feedback.
  • Be specific about what you found to be helpful and how you plan on using it to further your growth.
  • If there is an area you believe you would like more feedback in, say so, while giving the person the option to take time to prepare for that specific area.
  • Ask for a follow up meeting (set a mutually agreed- to time frame) to report back and get more feedback on your progress.

The workplace is where we spend the bulk of our best waking hours as well as where we spend the best years of our lives.  I believe it must be a place you truly love to be at. Dramas and ditch-living/working approaches can and do take away the enjoyment from the work and the place where the work is done. It doesn’t have to be so.  Approaches and strategies learned in working with a coach can truly help you love how you live, work and play!

feedback at work

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