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So why is it so hard to accept it?
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Organizations spend millions of dollars training leaders and managers on how to give feedback. Still, little else creates as much anxiety for the giver or the receiver.
That’s because most organizations are tackling the problem from the wrong end, says
Sheila Heen, co-founder of Triad Consulting Group and co-author of
Thanks for the Feedback (Viking/Penguin, 2014).
“In any feedback conversation, it’s really the receiver who is in charge and is in control of what they take in and whether they decide to do anything about it,” Heen says.
To truly reap the benefits of feedback, she advocates teaching people to be better receivers of such advice. And she recommends starting at the top.
“If you want to change the feedback culture in your organization, the fastest way to do that is for visible leaders in your organization to work to become better receivers,” Heen says.
She teaches business executives how to ask for—and learn from—feedback as part of a negotiation course she leads at Harvard Law School.
Studies have linked “feedback-seeking behavior” to higher job satisfaction, greater creativity, faster adaptation in a new role and lower turnover, she says. Leaders who ask for feedback are also those ranked highest for overall effectiveness, according to research by
Zenger Folkman, which provides leadership development training.
“It really is a loud signal to the organization that you think everybody has things to work on,” Heen says. Leaders should model what they value and what they expect from others.
But this isn’t easy. Learning to accept feedback requires us to wrestle two conflicting human needs: the need to learn and grow and the need to be accepted as we are. It helps to understand what triggers our defensive reactions, which can block our ability to learn.
She suggests three simple ways to begin to accept and learn from feedback:
“The fact that you even tried it sends a signal, too. That tells the person you actually listened,” Heen says.
Dori Meinert is senior writer/editor for HR Magazine.
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