Now That You Know: What Do You Do With That Feedback?

The previous post walked you through how to ask for and receive feedback. You`ve asked for it, you`ve received it with grace, and now – what do you do with it?

You have two choices.

The first is to reject it. You may not agree with what you heard. Why act on something you disagree with? After all, it`s an opinion. However, tread lightly here. Give this feedback some time to settle ?€“ you may find some truth in it and decide differently later. Check out your tendency to reject the feedback with someone you trust.

The second is to decide to do something about it. What actions will you take? Some ideas:

  • Gain clarity around the feedback you`ve received. You can return to the original feedback-giver and ask additional questions. Ask others you trust for their input, too.
  • Consider actions you`ll take. For some, talking it with a mentor, advisor or coach helps. Thinking out loud and asking for advice on the actions to be taken can be helpful. For others, journaling and reflecting on what you heard and the actions you can take are preferable.
  • Find a way to stay accountable as you take action. Although many are self-motivated, others of us may need the structure of “reporting in” to someone on a regular basis as we work our way through. Writing it down, in the form of an action plan, can help to solidify your intent (sharing the plan is even better!).
  • Ask for help from your staff, manager, and peers. Let them know what you are working on, and request that they assist in some way: ask them to let you know when you have strayed from your path or when you are following it.
  • Adjust as necessary. Continue asking for feedback, and adjust your action accordingly, until it fits just right for you.

As I look back on what I’ve written above, there seems to be a theme: the power of a support structure of trusted advisors cannot be underestimated! What have you found to be useful in taking action on feedback?

I am a former executive in a Fortune 100 company. I have owned and operated an executive coaching firm since 2003 called Aspire Collaborative Services LLC. We partner with great leaders to help them become even greater at developing, improving, and sustaining relationships with the people who are essential to their success. This blog is for leaders and those who help them to be more intentional about relationships at work. My top personal values include respect for others, kindness, compassion, collaboration and gratitude. I work very hard at practicing my values daily and when I don’t succeed, I practice some more. I am married with two wonderful daughters and two spoiled pugs.

9 comments on “Now That You Know: What Do You Do With That Feedback?

  1. I love that you included reflection in your action steps. I really think this is something that is lacking in so many leaders today. We are always moving at such a breakneck pace, that we rarely take the time to stop and reflect.

    Reflecting on the feedback we’ve received and what we are going to do with it saves us from making knee jerk decisions that may head us in the wrong direction. It also allows us to get passed the emotional sting that can sometimes come with critical feedback.

    Thanks for this…this is good stuff!

  2. Tom, thanks for your feedback! I am also, as you can see, a firm believer in reflection, but have also recgnized that this may take different forms for different people. Extraverts, for instance, have a very hard time reflecting alone. Certainly, they can learn to do so, but it doesn’t come naturally. This is why I included the “thinking out loud” part, which seems to work well for many/most extraverts. Shamelessly promoting coaching, I know that his is what a good executive coach can do – become a thinking partner, through the power of skilled inquiry. Thanks again for your wisdom.

  3. Very timely for me, especially the clarity part. I was offering feedback the other day and I could tell, body language wise, that the person did not understand something or agree (I couldn’t tell. They were not asking for clarity so I asked them – over and over – until we finally got to the point at issue. So, in addition to the great things you mention, I also see a responsibility of the feedback giver to prompt the clarity questions as needed.

  4. Mary Jo

    Great post, I think your last two post are highly important and are covering issues that I deal with every day at work. After reading your post I did realized that when I receive feed back I am initially too defensive, I really like the idea of just sitting on it for awhile and letting it sink in. Question: How do you try to break the barriers that defensive people put up when recieving feedback?

  5. I think the action of allowing the feedback to settle is essential. Many turn defensive when confronted with feedback or criticism; however, allowing the feedback to settle and thinking about the information from different angles may allow the subject to learn a great deal from the feedback.

  6. Lisa, good observation: “a responsibility of the feedback giver to prompt the clarity questions as needed.” Thanks!

    Elijah, in many cases, you may not be able to break those barriers. Maybe it’s enough to know that you’ve provided the feedback and that they will internalize it in some way. This may go under the heading (from an earlier post) “You can’t change others, so change yourself.” Note Kevin’s comment.

    Kevin, great addition. Thanks.

    All: one technique I learned years ago is to ask for permission to give feeback. This post addresses the the times that a leader has asked for feedback – so the possibility of defensiveness is somewhat mitigated. But giving unsolicited feedback to someone is a tricky situation and something altogether different. One way to potentially diffuse emotions from the start is to ask, “May I give you some feedback?” or “May I make a suggestion?”. The receiver will probably not say “no”, and by answering in the affirmative, they are takin some ownership.

  7. Great topic. You provide excellent concrete ideas on using feedback. Accepting feedback has to be in the top three most important skills for personal development.

    One of the most difficult aspects is to treat the feedback clinically. In other words, it’s just data. Objectively analyze it for truth and accuracy and don’t take it peronsonally. I find that the more comfortable I am with myself, the more valuable feedback becomes.

  8. Good post! One thing that need to be aware of is that, if you are asking for feedback, you need to be ready for anything they tell you, there is no point in asking if you don’t want to listen! Also about the support team, just make sure you are not surrounded of “yes” people, or pleople that is not willing to tell you the truth.

  9. Loren, thanks. I know from personal experience how hard it is to accept feedback “clinically”. I’m working on it, and believe I’m getting better too!

    Aaron, thanks. The previous post addresses your points. Take a look!

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