[Tips for Leaders] How to Face Your Critics AND Give – and Get – Great Feedback

John Baldoni recently blogged on the best way to handle  your critics, using President Obama’s recent session with Republican Congress members as an example. Baldoni’s post at the Harvard Business Review – How to Face Your Critics –  suggests the following steps:

  • Show up.
  • Be cool.
  • Acknowledge your shortcomings.
  • Criticize gently.
  • Smile frequently.
  • Leave them asking for more.

Beyond facing your critics, a key foundational pillar for you to be a good manager and an even better leader is your ability to give and get great feedback. The ability to do just that is a key elements in fostering collaboration, building trust, and facilitating relationships- one of Jim Kouzes and Barry Posner’s “10 Commandments” of Leadership from their research findings in their work The Leadership Challenge.

Unfortunately most of the ways people give and get feedback are not so effective, don’t give you great data, and fail to have much traction.

Why? Lack of specifics, lack of impact, and lack of prioritization. If you’re going to give or get feedback – to critics or allies – you might as do it well.

As posted elsewhere, here’s a simple and effective way to give feedback:

  • Describe the specific behavior / action / activity that you want to highlight.
  • Describe the impact of the behavior / action / activity.
  • Provide a qualitative assessment.
  • Describe other options / methods of behavior as appropriate.

And the receiving – the getting feedback – side? Ask the the following:

  • What did I do that worked (specific behaviors and impact per above) that worked well?
  • What did I do (specific behaviors and impact) that you wished I did differently?

What the big difference? Instead of asking what worked, what didn’t work, the get feedback question prioritized what “what would you change” part of the conversation. If you just ask “what didn’t work” you can generate suggestions that are low priority items. Far better to ask “what would you change” questions which will generate not only high priority items, but may even generate ways to tweak things that worked to a higher level.

It can be daunting tho’ not impossible to face people who are highly critical of you. But in that setting – or any other for the matter – getting and getting good feedback is importlant. Asking the right question – as well as asking with a degree of authentic interest – is key to giving and getting great, helpful feedback.

Life Back West is an occasional set of writings focused on ways people, teams and organizations can be both more effective (doing the right thing) and more efficient (doing the right thing well). More about executive, career and team / leadership coaching services can be found at the “About J. Mike Smith and Back West, Inc.” sidebar or the “Hire Me” tab above. You can also read an online interview with me at WhoHub, as well as participate in my learning community courtesy of KnowledgeCrush.