Source | LinkedIn : By John Ryan
When my twin brother and I were about 13 years old, we both tried playing the cornet. After six months of practice and many painful renditions of “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star” on this trumpet-like instrument, our music teacher finally pulled us aside.
“Look,” he told us firmly yet kindly. “You guys are both very talented basketball players; you have a bright future there. I’d recommend you focus on that.”
Honestly, we were relieved by our teacher’s good advice, and we took it. We also learned an important lesson in the process: feedback is a gift. And even though they never said it, our parents – who had listened to us screech through our lessons for half a year – were probably even more relieved.
At the Center for Creative Leadership (CCL®), the art of feedback is at the core of our work. As we remind all the clients we are privileged to serve, feedback is a two-way street. We must know how to receive it and how to give it. They’re both equally important to reaching our full potential as leaders.
We all love positive feedback; critical feedback is tougher, and there are two key principles for receiving it. First, listen and say thank you. This is easy to do when someone’s telling us something we want to hear – like drop your instrument and run to the gym. It’s a lot tougher when your boss says that new business strategy that took six weeks to develop is flawed, when an employee says you’re a poor listener, when your spouse says you don’t spend enough time with the family.
That’s when we need part two: reflecting on the feedback and getting second opinions. My brother and I didn’t need anyone to confirm that we stunk as cornet players. But most situations are usually not so clear. When receiving critical feedback, our initial instinct is often to dismiss it instantly. That’s the wrong move, especially when it’s from a credible source. Instead, take a few minutes, or perhaps considerably longer, to ponder it. Then go to a trusted family member or colleague or mentor and say, “Hey, the head of one of our biggest business lines told me I act like a jerk when I get impatient, and it’s hurting morale. Is there anything to that?”
There probably is. Sometimes, people have their own agendas and offer feedback that’s unconstructive. But most times, if somebody makes an effort to point out a shortcoming, there’s a reason for it. Don’t run from it.
Giving feedback isn’t any easier. That was something I learned while helping train pilots in the U.S. Navy. Landing a plane is risky, particularly on an aircraft carrier, and when you’re learning how to do it, you work hard on getting the correct glide slope – the right speed and lineup that allows you to land correctly and in the center of the runway.