Leaders Invite Criticism

If you courageously invite criticism and gracefully listen to it, you will earn loyalty and trust. If you react with defensiveness or withdrawal, you’ll lose your credibility. ~Steve Harling & Becky Harling

When I work with leaders, it’s not a surprise that one of their burning questions is how to give constructive feedback. Thus far, I don’t recall any leaders having the burning question of how to receive constructive feedback. However, nearly every expert on feedback will say, the best way to become a better giver of feedback is to first become a better receiver of feedback.

Authors of Listen Well, Lead Better, Steve Harling and Becky Harling, suggest Ten Principles for Inviting Constructive Criticism. I’ve included their list of 10 below and added my personal commentary to each principle.

Ten Principles for Inviting Constructive Criticism

1. Ask for it.

As a leader you must ask for feedback. However, you must also make is safe. So, don’t say, “can you give me some feedback.” Instead, be specific and don’t use the word feedback. Something like, “I’d like to make our meetings more engaging. What’s one thing you see that I could do to accomplish that?”

2. Slow down and don’t react.

Pause, even for a couple of seconds before you speak. Maybe take a deep breathe, or say a mantra in your head. Whatever you need to do that will help you slow down.

3. Assume positive intent.

The vast majority of the time people giving you feedback do have positive intent. Assume that’s the case and receive it graciously.

4. Focus on the facts.

Sift through any drama or embellishment and consider the facts of what you heard.

5. Say thanks (but only if you mean it).

If you don’t say thanks, you may not receive feedback in the future.

6. Drill down.

Without being defensive, ask clarifying questions so you can sincerely understand how to get better.

7. Own what you can.

If they are right, even if that’s limited to some of the details, then own it.

8. Consider the source.

Think about their direct knowledge of what’s being said.

9. Ask for time to follow up.

Give yourself some space to process and consider what might be right and then let them know how you intend to change.

10. Move on.

Consider their views, take what might be right and decide what to do with that, and then let it go and move on.

If you courageously [BOLD] invite criticism and gracefully [GRACE] listen to it, you will earn loyalty and trust. Lead with bold grace.

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