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The PeopleCap Playbook

Timely insights and actionable people strategies for leaders.

Receiving Feedback is Humbling

people in audience

I have been working for months on the content for a 4-hour workshop to help executives lead effectively in a talent-driven economy. This past week, I had the opportunity to conduct the workshop with three consecutive groups of key leaders – totaling about 55 people. At the end of the workshop, the group leader asked each member to provide feedback on what went well and what I could improve. So, by the end of the week, I had stood in front of 55 people each of whom told me something negative about my presentation or my delivery. My self-esteem was in the toilet.

Mind you, this is not my first speaking rodeo. I have given three commencement addresses, presented to high powered corporate boards, and delivered key note speeches. But this is the first time that I have sought live feedback from the audience on what I could do better. It was humbling. AND it was extremely valuable.

I received feedback on everything from the font size in my slides to the pace of the workshop. One guy even tallied the number of times I said, “Um.” Each day, I went back for more – adjusting from the feedback the day before to make the workshop more valuable. And this weekend, I’m using the feedback to make even more changes. I’m grateful for the collective wisdom that I was able to tap into.

If you want to improve at anything you do, you must get feedback. And when you ask for it, be prepared to receive it. So, in the spirit of receiving, I offer some tips for taking in feedback. ( I won’t say I made an A+ on this myself. After all, most people don’t survive a firing squad!)

Tips for Receiving Feedback:

• Take a deep breath and ask for it.
• Listen carefully. And ask clarifying questions.
• Make some notes that you can refer to and revisit them later when you are off of the hot seat.
• Don’t forget to note the positive feedback too! Every single executive gave me positive feedback, but in my mind, those comments were quickly trampled by the negative ones.
• Don’t be defensive. Just take it in. You don’t need to respond or rebut.
• Thank the person or people delivering the feedback. It’s not easy to provide candid feedback either!
• Sit with the feedback. Process. Reflect.
• Act on the feedback that you find impactful. (It’s ok not to act on every single bit of it.)
• Breathe.

Receiving feedback is a little bit like going to the dentist. It’s something you have to endure because you know it’s good for you. So just prepare yourself for the discomfort, get it over with, and use it to grow. I’m feeling better already!