Great Leaders Ask for Feedback

I have always believed feedback is a gift.  Sometimes feedback is positive and sometimes negative, but I try and keep in mind there is a lesson to be learned from the feedback in terms of how I show up, as a leader and as a human being.  Receiving unvarnished feedback from those around you can be a gold mine if you’re truly open to it.

In the leadership coaching I do with my clients, I find the toughest challenge for many leaders is their willingness to ask for and accept feedback.  Sometimes clients get defensive and will try and justify their behavior.  My role as a leadership coach has taught me to push through this defensiveness.  Unfortunately for many leaders, their colleagues and employee may hold back to avoid conflict or fear of retribution.   The irony is that without feedback, these leaders are unlikely to change.


For many leaders they feel that asking for feedback makes them look weak or lacking confidence.  More and more leadership experts agree that the opposite is true.  Asking for feedback requires COURAGE.  The courage to be vulnerable, the courage to admit you’re not perfect, and the courage to be open to change.  It is important that leaders learn to actively seek feedback from others.  We can ask others for help to improve our leadership communications, capabilities and style.  Many studies have been done and articles written about asking for feedback.  In my experience, these are the important elements to get the best feedback:

  1. Ask for direct and honest feedback. Be clear that you don’t want them to sugar coat it, and you don’t want them to hold back.  It may be necessary to repeat this a few times.
  2. Stay focused on the future and areas you can improve vs. defending or justifying behaviors in the past.  Reacting defensively to feedback is the surest way to shut down the conversation.
  3. Be persistent, ask questions and probe for a deeper understanding. This will signal you’re serious about wanting their feedback and they will likely offer more detail.
  4. Practice strong listening skills, nod, take notes, repeat or paraphrase back what you’ve heard and thank them for providing honest feedback.

Great leaders adopt a mindset of wanting to improve and being open to change.  This is not only necessary for themselves, but for their organizations, their teams and those around them.

At Intelligent Leadership Executive Coaching, our Law #6 states:  You have the choice to either accept or reject feedback; however, if you reject feedback, you also reject the choice of acting in a way that may very well bring you abundant success and happiness.

I encourage you to make the choice to seek and accept feedback.  It will change your life and make you a better leader.

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