Confidently receiving feedback like a leader is a skill I recommend you develop early. Here’s my 3-Step process to receiving feedback like a confident leader that I wish I knew 10 years ago.
But receiving feedback like a leader is a completely different skill set, and one I recommend you develop early on.
In my corporate life, I often received the feedback that I didn’t have a poker face.
People could easily read what I was thinking. They told me I was “wearing my heart on my sleeve”.
And it was positioned as a bad thing.
The feedback was too emotional and I needed to “get better at keeping a straight face!”
I’ve had many clients receive similar feedback.
And then, I’m sure it won’t surprise you to know I’ve had clients who receive the exact opposite feedback.
“We can never tell what you’re thinking”
“Your face is too straight”
And my personal favorite, “You should smile more”… (don’t get me started).
It doesn’t matter who you are, or how good you are at your job, some part of your style is going to rub someone the wrong way.
The question you need to ask yourself is “is that really a problem?”
10 years ago, I used to make it a problem.
I would do everything I could to make all “the powers” happy.
But I could never keep them all happy at the same time.
Not just because there were a lot of “powers” to keep happy.
Not just because they all had different opinions and styles.
But mostly because I can’t control what people think.
Being told your “too anything” is less about you and more about the other person (or even people).
It signals that you are outside THEIR comfort zone.
And they don’t have the self-awareness to realize it’s their problem.
Or they’re so senior, they think they’re entitled to you changing to make them comfortable.
This is good to know.
It doesn’t mean you should ignore the feedback.
But it does mean nothing is wrong with you.
The more successful you are as a leader, the more feedback you’re going to get.
You have a lot more eyeballs on you when you’re successful.
And so, you have lots of people who resent your success and want to tear you down (even if they don’t realize it).
And also, there are the people who are truly trying to lift you up.
How do you decide which is which?
Here’s my 3-Step process to confidently receiving feedback like a leader that I wish I knew 10 years ago.
1: Know Who You Are
The reason I kept taking on everyone’s feedback and trying to make them happy was because I didn’t believe I was good enough the way I was.
I was basically gaslighting myself. That’s really the bottom line.
I knew what people loved about me was my creativity, strong opinions, and positive energy, and it was also the thing that made other people uncomfortable.
What I was missing was a vision for the kind of leader I wanted to be. I didn’t have a clear brand strategy for myself that I believed in, and that I could measure feedback against.
And because I wasn’t clear, I didn’t feel confident saying “Yes, I’m the kind of person who wears my heart on my sleeve… that’s part of the package”.
Instead, I tried to change myself to please people. I became less creative, held back my opinions, and became resentful.
So step one in confidently receiving feedback is to know what makes you the leader you are and own it.
P.S. This isn’t a blank cheque to avoid growth. The goal is still to aspire to greatness… just your version of greatness (not someone else’s)
2: Decide If The Feedback Fits
Once you know who you are, you can assess the feedback.
How does the feedback align with your brand? How many people are giving you the feedback? Why are they giving you the feedback? Is it an opinion or did something actually go sideways?
And ultimately, do you want to integrate this feedback into your brand? And if you do, what is the overall impact to your brand and is it worth it?
Even if the person giving you the feedback is the president of your company, YOU still get to decide if you want to incorporate the feedback.
Believe me, I’ve worked for lots of different presidents. And none of them had a better sense of who I should be than I did. And I was always the most successful in my career when I was focused on pleasing myself vs. others.
So, step two is to decide on the feedback you want to discard vs. the feedback you want to keep.
3: Gracefully Close The Loop
Sometimes the feedback is an easy take it or leave it. No loop closing required.
And sometimes the president of the company IS the one offering the feedback. Or you have lots of people offering the same feedback.
You can’t just ignore it. What do you do?
You handle it.
Don’t just leave it hanging out there because you run the risk of people thinking you don’t listen.
And what does handling it look like? I can’t tell you that specifically. It depends on the person, situation and feedback.
You have to use your creativity to figure it out. Some basic places to start might be; seeking to understand why it bothers them. Offer another solution that’s more on brand for you. Or help people understand your point of view.
Step three is you need to close the loop with professionalism and patience.
Bottom Line: People are always going to have opinions about your leadership style. You need to be the gatekeeper of your leadership brand.
Everyone’s feedback about your style is a reflection of them. You don’t need to take on all the feedback. You get to decide what makes you a great leader and some of those things will rub some of the people the “wrong way”. You may need to manage it, but you don’t need to change your brand to make other people comfortable.