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Learn how to effectively respond to feedback

We receive feedback almost every day, sometimes without even knowing it. Feedback can be positive, letting us know that we are doing something well, or it can take the form of constructive criticism, informing us of things that we could be doing a little better. 

We receive this kind of feedback in many different circumstances, from many different people. It can come from our spouses, our kids, our friends, even a stranger. But a context in which we are almost always guaranteed to receive constructive feedback is our professional environments.


Giving and receiving feedback is a necessary part of any job

Giving feedback is a very effective way for leaders to spark positive change within their team. By having an open, authentic conversation about an individual’s behaviour, processes and productivity, leaders and businesses alike are able to boost performance and achieve better results. If a business has growth on its mind, then you best believe they are giving feedback to their direct reports.

While the concept of receiving negative feedback can sound scary, it really doesn’t have to be. It is all about the way it is framed, both from the giver’s perspective and the receiver’s. 

Generally, employers aren’t dishing out feedback with the intention of hurting people’s feelings. Their focus is on improving their business whilst also giving the receiver the opportunity to learn, grow and hone their skills. It maintains accountability in a workplace, it inspires positive change and  it provides clear goals and pathways to career growth. For these reasons, it should be celebrated and welcomed rather than viewed as a punishment or a scolding. 


Responding to feedback can be difficult, but it doesn’t have to be

Although the need for constructive feedback logically makes sense, it can be hard to swallow sometimes. No one likes to hear when they’ve done something wrong. It is our natural human instinct to feel the need to justify our actions or feel defensive when being confronted with things that we have done wrong, or ways that we could improve. 

We’ve all been there. Your stomach drops. You feel a wave of embarrassment followed by a pang of anger. You want to blurt something out that explains why your choices were correct, knowing that it is not the right way to respond professionally. Well, it doesn’t have to feel this way. Just like giving it, effectively receiving and responding to feedback is a skill that can be learned.

Considering that feedback is a necessary part of any job, it is important that everyone learns how to respond to feedback in ways that not only work to improve the business, but also work to help you learn and grow.


Steps to help you respond to feedback effectively

Although explaining yourself can be your first instinct when receiving feedback, it’s important to fight that urge and listen carefully to what they’re saying. Cutting them off in an attempt to defend yourself won’t get you very far. Remember, feedback is an opportunity to help you grow, it’s not a personal attack session. It is likely that you are going to learn something, so try and focus on what they are saying rather than your emotional response to it.

You should try and understand the intention behind the feedback and then take note of their main points and recommendations for improvement. This will help you formulate a more comprehensive and targeted response. 

Once they have finished speaking, take a moment to thank them for their feedback and let them know that you value their thoughts. This is also when you should internally remind yourself that you are a valued member of the team and that this feedback session was not intended to put you down. 

Instead of diving straight into a discussion, you may want to ask your manager for some more information in regards to their comments. Asking questions about context or the ways in which your behaviour or performance has been affecting others can be useful to understand why you are receiving this feedback in the first place. This information will also make it easier to make a plan on how to improve. Asking questions will not only help you, but it will also show your manager that you are receptive to feedback and dedicated to your role.

Once you’ve clarified all that you need to, it can be helpful to ask for some time to process the feedback before making any formal response. Taking the time to /organise and assess your manager’s comments can allow any negative emotions to dissipate so you can think clearly about what has been said. It also shows that you are taking their feedback seriously and plan to implement an improvement plan.

Speaking to someone who is not directly involved in your work can help you gain an unbiased opinion on the situation. This can help you think of solutions that you may not have thought of on your own and also help you get some of the negative emotions out of your head.

Once you have processed the feedback and feel that you can start implementing solutions, you may want to start creating a formal plan or process that will help you improve. For example, if your manager has mentioned that you need to work on your attention to detail or planning skills, then go away and craft a new process for you to follow that takes all aspects of the feedback into consideration. Maybe you will create a new form or checklist to fill out each time you do a certain task, ensuring that you never miss a step. Formally documenting your improvement plan is an excellent way to prove that you’re taking the comments on board. You may even create a new process that can be taken up by the rest of the team.

No matter what your specific solution is, it needs to start with visible change. Show that you are taking on the feedback and are being proactive about implementing it. 

Once you have begun to implement your changes, it can be a great idea to go back to your manager and talk about what you’ve been doing as a result of their feedback. Let them know that you’ve been thinking about their feedback and have taken calculated steps to act upon it. 

This is your chance to show that you’re committed and are putting in the work to become the best that you can be. This is a huge display of dedication, confidence and self awareness which will get a big tick from your manager. 

During this meeting, you have the opportunity to ask for further feedback on the steps you have taken so far. This will either result in praise and validation or additional advice that will be valuable to your growth. Remember, receiving feedback is a good thing.


Get in touch with the experts at Performance By Design

Let us help you and your organisation perform at its best. Whether your business is struggling with underperformance of your team or experiencing issues associated with rapid growth, get in touch with our business improvement consultants today.