Very early in my career I realized that feedback is predominantly seen as negative, to the extent that we used to jokingly threaten one another “if you are not careful, I will give you feedback!’. More than 15 years down the line, I have come to see and experience the powerful impact good feedback has on people’s development.
In fact, when I look at some of my colleagues today and who they were some five to ten years ago, the difference is usually monumental regarding growth and personal leadership development, based on actions they took to become better versions of themselves. Feedback, and their response to it, played a crucial role
In my previous blog post titled 5 Lessons from my Leadership Journey, the second lesson I shared talks about candid feedback as a key ingredient for growth. Here I will be sharing with you, based on my little experience, how to respond and act on feedback for your own development.
Feedback is a gift
Warren Buffet believes feedback is a gift, and I have personally been on a journey, over time, to see and experience it as such, whether I perceive it as positive or negative.
Giving candid feedback requires some level of courage and is a show of genuine interest in the growth of the other person. When someone takes time to give you feedback, whether it’s palatable or not, be attentive, clarify if necessary, and be gracious in receiving it.
Everybody cannot be wrong
Now the question is, should you act on every single feedback you receive? I think the answer is no. Feedbacks are usually offsprings of both objective and subjective perceptions and as human beings, we are not always objective and that is what makes us humans. As I have heard and learnt over time, we are emotional beings that think and not the other way round.
You can get as much feedback from as many different sources. But as the saying goes, if you build your house to everyone’s idea, you will end up with a crooked house.
However, when you hear the same feedback from multiple colleagues, then you should consider giving some credence and consideration to act on it, to develop yourself. Even the bible says in 2 Corinthian 13:1 that out of the mouth of witnesses will a fact be established.
Develop an Action Plan to act on the feedback
To really benefit from the feedback that you have decided to act on, you need to be deliberate about it. Just like we develop action plans for our business strategies, we also need one for our personal developmental strategies, which can be informed by candid feedback.
Of course, there are different dimensions to the action you can take, depending on whether the feedback is related to technical competence, mindset and behaviours, soft skills, etc. For me, whatever category.
Your action plan needs to have the following basic structure
- What specific course of action are you taking?
- What does good look like?
- How do you know if you are making progress or not?
This may sound like a no-brainer but a plan will remain a plan unless it is implemented. You need to consciously plan your schedules, making space for personal development. Whether it is about a training you have to take, or a behaviour that you need to exhibit, etc.
For example, if you are like me that is primarily introverted, you may have the tendency to not freely share your valuable ideas and opinions in meetings, especially when quiet voices are not encouraged to speak up. Your unique contributions might, most often, be missing and if you are determined to change this, you need to go into those meetings, planning how you want to show up and doing exactly that, as much as possible.
Have a Buddy
Apart from measuring your progress by yourself, it is also very productive to check with a colleague cum buddy, from time to time, how much progress you are making. This continues the cycle of feedback and action, which culminates in continuous development.
For further reading about feedback, check out the book Thanks for the Feedback: The Science and Art of Receiving Feedback Well by Douglas Stone and Sheila Heen.