Who loves ‘constructive feedback’? Giving or receiving? Anyone?
Some people do, I’ve met one, she’s amazing and I love her open, grounded and welcoming attitude to constructive feedback – ‘’give me something to work with’’. Brilliant. For Quiet Leaders however, either way can be challenging.
Research shows that our reaction to the prospect of feedback – even the word – invokes a fear response. Our primitive brain sees it as a threat, a potential rejection – being pushed out into the cold from the warm tribe fireside. So, we want to avoid it, fight it, or shut down/it out. Sensible reaction to a life threatening situation, maybe not so much if we want to grow ourselves or help others to grow.
As a Quiet Leader, I am betting one of the reasons you get up in the morning is to enable others – your ‘why’ is to help people reach their full potential. And we are great at listening and observing, using our intuition and perceptive selves to figure out what isn’t working so well, and what could help people to grow. We see and feel things others don’t, have insights that will be valuable to others, to help them thrive.
But it may be uncomfortable to receive this, those doing so may react defensively and aggressively – deny, challenge and attack our perception. As quiet leaders a number of things might arise – our empathic feeling of these emotions, our own vulnerability around feedback, and our inner people pleasers, perfectionists and imposters. We don’t want people to feel bad, we feel responsible for the outcome and the reaction, we may physically feel the uncomfortable emotions, and we question ourselves endlessly about how we could have ‘done better’ – with anxiety looking ahead, and rumination looking back.
Who wants to feel all the turmoil someone else is going through, as well as our own stuff? Is it any wonder we might avoid, soften, or put off giving constructive feedback?
But in order to help people develop, as Quiet Leaders we need to grow our own skills in giving and receiving feedback – both constructive and out-and-out positive. To live, lead and work with a growth mindset, it’s vital.
As senior leaders this can become even more complex, because we’re giving feedback to leaders we manage or work with. The feedback becomes less about actions and more about behaviours, hence has the potential to be a little less objective. So we will question our own leadership skills: ‘Who am I to raise ‘y’, they might criticise the way I do ‘x’, ‘I know their leadership style is different’, ‘Is my leadership style ‘’right’’?’
Here are three things you could try…
- Prepare, prepare, prepare.
Use concrete examples, and make sure they’re reasonably recent. Look at some feedback models – I like ‘AID’ and ‘SBI’. Stay objective. Write important points down, and if you have some key messages, practice saying them out loud. And maybe practice calling ‘feedback’ something else – observations, suggestions…
- Release the outcome, focus on the intent
Once you’ve done all that preparation, let go of any expectation as to the outcome – or you may stop listening, becoming disappointed and frustrated. Ask yourself some key questions to focus on your ‘why’, your bigger intent.
Here are some possible ones –
– Why are you doing this? What is your intent? Could you state it as you enter into the conversation?
– In % terms, how responsible are you for the outcome?
– How do you react to feedback? Is your initial response the one that lasts? What useful feedback have you had in the past that at first felt threatening?
- Model receiving your own feedback.
Our own effectiveness as leaders is optimised by understanding our impact. Quiet leaders are usually more self-aware and emotionally intelligent, but we all have blind spots, and when stress and overwhelm step in, our actions and behaviours may not be as congruent with our values as we would like.
You may feel uncomfortable and threatened if the feedback is challenging, but we are then ‘walking the walk’, receiving it as a gift it is, and then examining it for truth and evidence. Actively seek it, simply respond with a ‘thank you’, and let it sink in for a few days, sitting with the discomfort. What can you learn from it?