Jan 22, 2018 | Leadership

It’s been said that feedback is the breakfast of champions. In my work as a leadership consultant, clients often tell me that they welcome feedback on their performance. In reality, however, negative feedback can go down like a bowl of cold, lumpy oatmeal.

Nobody likes negative feedback. No matter how much you claim to want honest critique, it’s hard to swallow. Especially when you get it from multiple raters in a 360-degree review format.

Unlike a traditional employee appraisal, the 360 review is an opportunity for a wider span of people you regularly work with – your boss, your peers, your reporting staff – to provide feedback on your performance. Hence, the name 360-degree comes from the fact that performance feedback is solicited from all directions in the organization.

This is the time of year when we’re resolving to improve ourselves and perhaps undergoing performance reviews. It’s also when we’re most likely to encounter negative feedback. Instead of viewing this time with dread, leaders who want to continuously grow themselves and their organizations welcome the opportunity to learn.

No matter how resilient they are, most executives process negative feedback by working through the five stages of grief. They react with the denial stage and try to cling to their preferred reality. Next, they move to anger and look for someone else to blame. In the bargaining stage, they consider ways to negotiate ways out of doing the work to assess reality correctly. This often leads to the stage of depression and withdrawal. In the final stage, acceptance, they recognize that there may be some truth to the feedback, and can resolve to deal with it.

That’s partly because high achievers tend to have attribution bias. That is, we take too much credit for our successes and assign too much external blame for our failures. It’s a survival mechanism that helps to protect our self-esteem. Unfortunately, it also prevents learning and growth.

If you suffer a setback from negative feedback, you don’t have to get stuck in the grief cycle.  Re-read the feedback carefully and mine it for nuggets to help you critically evaluate where you can improve. Talk with others who you trust to get their perspective on your feedback. Use this opportunity to do some serious discovery work, then act with renewed conviction. Move out of the grief cycle and onto a path that will allow you to grow as a leader and be the kind of model you strive to be.

Getting negative feedback about your performance from your colleagues can be an ego bruiser. But, successful leaders know that feedback can shed light on their blind spots, and help them assess reality correctly. Every setback can become a springboard to a comeback if you respond in the right way.

Question: How can you turn negative feedback into positive changes?


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