Skilled leaders are usually experienced at giving feedback to their teams. It's an expectation of any leadership role.

But are your feedback channels one-way? How often are the individuals on your team giving you their feedback? And what are the results when that happens?

Leaders need to be as effective at inviting, receiving and actioning feedback as they are at delivering it. Otherwise, they're missing the opportunity to receive a valuable gift.

Establishing a culture of giving & receiving

Providing feedback involves a certain level of risk. And the further you advance as a leader, the greater the risk people are taking when they give you feedback — especially if it's not entirely positive feedback. When we're talking about a physical gift, the giver wants to make sure what they're giving doesn't offend (for example, don't assume someone will be happy to receive a gym membership as a gift), and poorly received feedback can be equally damaging. This is why executives sometimes don't get to hear the truth and risk developing blind spots.

But you can minimize the risk your team feels they're taking based on how well you've established a culture of giving and receiving feedback. Here are some pointers:

Inviting Feedback

  • Schedule regular time in team meetings and one-on-ones for feedback to be shared both ways.
  • Be open to public feedback. Accepting feedback publicly from your team reinforces to everyone that it's safe for them to speak up. You'll invite further feedback this way.
  • Provide examples. Let your team know how feedback has helped you in the past. This demonstrates that you're truly open and helps them understand what you're looking for from them.

Receiving Feedback

  • Listen without speaking. Resist the urge to defend. Take in what's being said and reply only with thanks.
  • Focus on what they're saying, not how they're saying it. Remember, leaders have experience delivering feedback, but those who don't lead may not. Try to get past their delivery to experience the full benefit of their message.
  • Accept the gift of feedback graciously. Unlike that 10th vase you received as a wedding gift, you can only benefit from the feedback. So it's just as well that feedback doesn't come with a gift receipt!

Actioning Feedback

  • Take time to digest. Especially when the feedback comes as a surprise to you. Once you've thanked the person for their honesty, reflect on what you've heard.
  • Consider consulting a trusted peer or mentor. You might want to speak to someone you trust who is removed from the situation to help you process the feedback.
  • Circle back. The person who provided the feedback will appreciate knowing how you used what they said to generate constructive results.

Remember, in a strong team that is committed to collaboration, the spirit of feedback is constructive, not destructive. Opening yourself up to feedback is easier when you can confidently recognize the constructive spirit with which it was provided. Being vulnerable and willing to grow together with your team is a sign of leadership maturity.

So when it comes to the gift of feedback, as the expression says, don't look a gift horse in the mouth!