“Feedback is the breakfast of champions.” Ken Blanchard
"Whoever loves discipline loves knowledge, but he who hates reproof is stupid." Proverbs 12:1
Blindspots, you have them
We all have blind spots. We discover this in driver's education classes; we have gaps in our vision as we drive down the road. We have a forward view, side-view mirrors, and rear-view mirrors that each gives us perspective on our surroundings. But even with the help of side and rear-view mirrors there is still have 10-15% that is outside of our view. These are our blind spots.
We also have blind spots in our life; both in our leadership and character. What's interesting is that other people see them, but we don't. But we can choose to see them or refuse. And often the culprit of being able to see them is our fear. Fear of others, fear of truth, fear of change, and fear of transparency, and fear of admitting weakness or fault. But what we often fail to realize is that others in pointing out our blind spots usually do so to make us better. And the path to getting better is through discovering blindspots with a little feedback. But it's not a natural leadership muscle. It's one that must be developed.
Here are some principles on how to receive feedback
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One | Listen to your emotions.
When we're receiving feedback, it's almost an automatic response to emotionally ramp up. Often we will respond with blaming or explaining. But we need to bite our lip in these moments. When your pulse begins to race and your body starts to signal biological responses like sweating, blushing, or muscle tension, you need to take a moment and quiet your emotions. Reduce the impulse in these moments to self-preserve and try not to see the person delivering the feedback as an adversary.
Two | Listen thoroughly.
Rather than respond too quickly listen completely to someone giving you feedback. People are not always so good at delivering it - like you're not good at receiving it. So give the giver an opportunity to explain. It's good to invite them also to clarify, restate, or to give examples as you listen. Just let them talk and get everything out. Often they will have been thinking about it a while. If you demonstrate, you hear they will often gradually soften their tone and bring a more positive perspective to the feedback their giving. You might even find you'll win them over. And don't prepare an answer in your mind, instead pay attention entirely to them. Ask them also to given illustrative examples. Remember they are not the enemy. The problems they see are just opportunities to find better solutions.
Three | Ask for suggestions for improvement.
To help a person move from raw feedback to constructive feedback, ask them to give examples of how they might handle the issue or what they might do to improve. When you do this, you're inviting them, and since they see the problem differently than you, it might benefit you to hear their perspective. When you do this, you're winning them over to a positive view and inviting them to help you to become better.
Four | Thank and apologize
There is usually an opportunity to apologize. When appropriate you should do so, without blaming or explaining. Own up to your issues, we all have them because no one is perfect. And then tie a nice bow on the end by thanking them. A genuine thank you when you mean it, will give them the courage to do it again - but only better. It will signal to them that you want a healthy, open, transparent, and authentic relationship with them as well. And they might have something amazing to report back to other peers about your courage and willingness. But thanking them helps to bring closure for you as well so that you can move forward. While you are sure to think on what was said for a while, the moment will be over for them - now it yours to learn from and move through.
Remember your leadership requires courage to both give and receive feedback, and how you receive it matters. So develop the skill and ability to invite feedback from others, because this is what accelerated leaders do. Leaders who do will grow faster. Build a culture of positive feelings toward feedback, and you will become a better leader and culture.
Vince Miller is a speaker, author, and mentor to men. He is an authentic and transparent leader who loves to communicate to audiences on the topics of mentorship, fathering, leadership and manhood. He has authored 16 books and small group curriculum for men and is the primary content creator of all Resolute materials. Contact Vince Miller here. His newest book is Thirty Virtues That Build A Man.