How to use negative feedback to be a better leader

A few weeks ago, I gave constructive feedback to a colleague.  Although those types of conversations are never easy, the discussion went well. Looking back on our meeting, I attribute its success to my detailed pre-planning.

At the close of our meeting, I was feeling good about our time together, but then something unexpected happened: This employee said they had feedback for me. My colleague then shared two examples of when I had recently let them down. The feedback stung. While I had planned to give feedback, I certainly hadn’t planned to receive it. I was thrown off guard and immediately felt hurt because I could empathize with this person’s concerns. They were right — I could have handled a few things differently than I had.

Externally I took the feedback like a champ. I attentively listened to my colleague, explained my thought process behind my actions and took ownership of the situation. Internally, however, I didn’t handle the situation so gracefully. I was upset and proceeded to beat myself up for hours to come. I felt foolish for not considering this employee’s perspective before making the mistakes I made, and I was disappointed because my intentions, which were, of course pure, did not match my actions.

Fortunately, after feeling down on myself, I was able to reclaim my self-confidence by realizing the feedback I received was a gift. If my colleague had never shared his feelings with me, I would never have had the chance to explain myself and to give a sincere apology. And by this employee mustering up the courage to have a hard conversation with me, it showed me they believe in my ability to grow and improve as a leader.

So what’s the moral of the story? There are many. For me, I was reminded that:

  • You can’t preplan everything
  • Feedback is a gift
  • There is no value in being overly critical of yourself

The next time you receive constructive feedback, be sure to self-reflect on the situation as I did. It’s incredible what you may discover about yourself. In the words of David Hain, “Leaders not only have to model the giving of feedback, but also the receiving of feedback in a way that is positive.”

Danielle Clark is a human resources manager with more than 10 years of HR and customer service experience in healthcare and retail organizations. Her work with Fortune 500 companies, in addition to a diverse professional and academic background, has trained Clark to be results-driven, people-focused and a thought-provoking leader. Her goal is to educate and inspire professionals to change their way of thinking. She is also an adjunct professor, active community volunteer, wife, mother and passionate lifelong learner.

4 thoughts on “How to use negative feedback to be a better leader”

  1. Reblogged this on Gary Tremolada and commented:
    Its an interesting article and really gets to the root of self awareness. You know we all have mental models of how we see ourselves until someone else/environment re-adjusts it for us.

    The take away is personal and professional growth, the sometimes difficult piece to deal with is the impact it has on our ego.

    The important point here is self reflection and the focus on process improvement for next time.
    Thank you Danielle great article.

  2. Gary- You are spot on. Dropping one’s ego is no easy feat, but the learning that comes from it is priceless. Thanks for such meaningful reflections and encouragement. Be well.

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