On October 12, I did a post about encouraging pushback. The intent of that post was to stimulate thinking about how we encourage a range of thinking among those we lead. Today, though, I want to address receiving negative feedback that is about you or the school/organization that you lead. When you receive negative feedback, what skills do you use to process it and respond to it? There is always a tendency to get defensive when the feedback is personal or when it addresses something that is important to us. How you respond to negative feedback demonstrates to others much about who you are as a leader. Do you come across as defensive and protective? Do you accept negative feedback passively and appear to 'give in' easily? Or do you accept it and process it in a way that demonstrates you have the skills to receive it?
What are these skills? Here is the start of a list that might be helpful....
- listen carefully to what is being said to you
- relax - as best you can - and breathe regularly
- seek to truly understand what is being said to you
- paraphrase concisely what you've heard
- paraphrase the content of the messages
- paraphrase the emotion in the messages
- try to get to the heart of the matter - what is the essential issue? - what are the peripheral issues?
- agree or concur with whatever points you can
- if you have specific information (e.g. a letter, an email, an announcement) that could shed light on the issue in question, bring it forward.
- When you bring forward information that supports your position, do it as helpful information, not as a way of providing 'proof' that you are right
- clarify the points where there is disagreement or a gap in information
- plan - with the person providing the feedback - a plan to resolve the issue
- ensure that your plan has at least one opportunity to revisit the issue with the person
- reflect - Think about how you worked through the process of receiving feedback. Did you do it with the intent to 'win' or did you do it with the intent to use the information for growth? Think about this carefully and use your new thinking to inform the next time you need to receive such feedback.