Skip to content

Eliminating the Sting of Constructive Feedback (#97)

The Confident Leader

Kurt’s departure from his previous company was choppy. His former colleagues accused him of engaging others in a way that was too harsh and overly critical. Their delivery was unforgiving. Does constructive feedback always have to sting?

Make feedback normal. Not a performance review.
— Ed Batista (American coach)

This Week’s Edition

How important is feedback? Creating a culture of continuous feedback may be challenging but done well it can change the culture of the team and keep a leader on track

Clarify Your Thinking

In evaluating his departure from his company, Kurt thought about the feedback from his former colleagues. They accused him of engaging others too harshly. 

This criticism stung. It got his attention. He really enjoyed working with others on a team to support their clients. He didn’t want his approach to create an unfriendly work environment. Puzzled, he asked himself, “what did I need do differently? I’m at a loss.” 

At his new company, he felt as though he had a new opportunity to improve his approach to his colleagues. Things seemed to go well until a junior team member, Mary, repeatedly failed to meet his expectations for client service.

He knew he needed to do something before it negatively impacted one of the clients, but Kurt found himself holding back from confronting the issue with Mary. He didn’t trust himself to engage her in a manner that wasn’t too harsh or overly critical. 

When leaders get feedback that they did not perform well pride keeps them from hearing it. But when they do hear it, it stings. Often, they don’t know what to do with it. They begin to ask themselves, “What do I do differently? I’ve been doing it this way for so long, I’m not sure how I correct this.”

Old Thinking: I made a mistake last time. I might make it again. I can’t afford to make a mistake. I’ll just hold back. 

New Thinking: If my leadership is lacking in an area which I have been given feedback, I need to skill up. I must seek out additional input and feedback. I can improve even if I run the risk of not doing it perfectly.

Thoughts Lead to Actions

Kurt acknowledged the tension he was experiencing, “The clients require excellence otherwise they’ll jump to another provider, but how do I effectively engage Mary and not come across as too exacting?” 

We determined that Kurt’s typical approach had him spending an inordinate amount of talk time overly describing the problem. This often turned his colleagues off preventing him from discussing the correction. 

Kurt and I chatted about a simple approach:

  1. Spend a sentence on the mistake

  • Identify the area to be developed

  1. Spend a paragraph on the correction

  • Collaborate on how to make changes to perform better

By taking a more collaborative approach, Kurt was able to have a different type of conversation with Mary. He focused the conversation on improving her performance instead of just pointing out her mistakes and risk coming across as overly critical. To his astonishment, the conversation went well.

The moral of the story: leadership is not a game of perfect. When we strive for perfection (no mistakes), it’s an impossible standard to meet. So, when we miss the mark and get feedback, it’s hard to receive.  

Don’t expect perfection in yourself. Mistakes are opportunities to improve. Solicit feedback. When we get good at receiving feedback, we simultaneously get better at giving it.  

Based on tough feedback, Kurt moved from unawareness to fully embracing his area of development. This helped him improve his approach and his overall leadership performance.

Boost Your Performance

Ironically, Kurt used the sting of the feedback he received to help inform how he could offer feedback in a more constructive manner. Find out more of the story of his journey to great leadership in this week’s video.

What’s Your Opinion?

What is your pro tip on how do you give feedback? Share with me at:

Don’t let doubt count you out. Have a confident week!

Robin Pou, Chief Advisor and Strategist

If this was helpful, feel free to share it with another leader who needs to defeat doubt and complete their confidence.

Let’s Connect

Follow me on Linkedin, Facebook and Twitter.

What is “The Confident Leader”?

During the Covid-19 Pandemic, I began a video series called “Panic or Plan?” It was designed to equip leaders to navigate the doubt they experienced and to rise in the confidence they needed to lead during turbulent times. It took off. I then started this newsletter to equip leaders in the same fashion each week for the doubt that crashes across the bow of their leaderSHIP.

Let’s Do This!

    We respect your privacy. Unsubscribe at any time.