By Mattson Newell (@MattsonNewell), a Director for Partners In Leadership who works with leaders to create greater workplace accountability and facilitates enterprise-wide culture change.

Feedback, speaking up, having tough conversations and communication in general have all been well emphasized for decades in the business world. The one area where emphasis lacks is... listening!

Mistake #1: Avoiding Feedback

We all love to give feedback, but how many of us love to receive feedback? Why is this? Research shows that too often we correlate feedback to negative experiences. In fact, in a recent Workplace Accountability Study it showed that 80% of people felt feedback only occurs when something goes wrong.

You can see why this would be a problem! If people believed feedback only happens when something goes wrong then we would all be avoiding feedback like the plague! This is where we need to start, feedback needs to happen continually, not just when something goes wrong.

Mistake #2: Giving vs. Receiving

Forget everything your parents told you about giving is better than receiving when it comes to feedback, receiving is far superior. Leaders can fall into the trap that they need to have all the answers and always be looking to give feedback. Jack Welch, former CEO of GE, had a different perspective. He shared this,

"I was never the smartest guy in the room. From the first person I hired, I was never the smartest guy in the room. And that's a big deal. And if you're going to be a leader - if you're a leader and you're the smartest guy in the world - in the room, you've got real problems."

With this perspective leaders would constantly be seeking the feedback of others, not just looking to give it to others. Tom Smith, former CEO of Partners In Leadership taught me this important lesson early on in my career. He said, "You have to learn to love to be corrected." Even the Greeks saw an issue with speaking verse listening as the Greek Philosopher Epictetus said, "We have two ears and one mouth so that we can listen twice as much as we speak." As leaders, focus on seeking feedback, rather than giving it.

Mistake #3: Responding to Feedback

How you respond to feedback largely dictates how much feedback you are going to get. Will people really be open and candid with you if you respond negatively or get upset the minute they tell you some feedback you don't really want to hear? When receiving feedback try to follow these 3 steps:

1. Actively Listen: Make sure you are tuned in, body language is in check, and the person feels you are engaged in the conversation

2. Say, "Thank you!" Thank them for taking the time to develop you and give you feedback.

3. Follow-Up: If you have some things to work on from the feedback you received, follow-up with that person and ask them how you are doing. You not only help them feel validated with the feedback they gave you, but you are now building a relationship with them as a coach, someone invested in your success.

Next Steps

Moving forward don't fall into the trap of just giving feedback and feeling like you need to be the smartest person in the room, rather be a listening leader. This next week reach out to 4 people and ask for their feedback. As you actively listen, thank them and follow-up. You will be surprised from what you might learn from their valuable feedback.

Published on: Mar 2, 2017
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