One of the major shifts in business over the past decade has been a move towards transparency and openness. Having grown up in a more egalitarian & global world, people from younger generations have entered the workforce expecting clearly defined success metrics and more frequent performance feedback.

When you’re in a leadership role, delivering critical feedback effectively can be challenging (we’ve got tips for giving feedback here and here). However, there are always moments when you are on the receiving end of critical feedback, and that can be just as difficult.

Leaders tend to be well intentioned when they are giving feedback, but the delivery is not always perfect and can create a lot of negative emotions (anxiety, shame). How can you make the most of the situation?

Step 1: Ruminate a bit

Sit with the feedback, absorb it, allow yourself to feel angry, and then examine it for the ‘truths’. What’s accurate about the feedback? Is there some validity to the feedback you are receiving? Do you have a blind spot around a particular behavior?

Step 2: Seek to understand

Seek to understand exactly what the feedback means so you are focused on the right things. Which items require more clarity to understand? Ask yourself what would it look like if you were performing better or differently in that area?

Step 3: Disagree to gain clarity

Respectfully disagreeing can bring about greater clarity for both you and your manager and lead to more clearly defined or understood success metrics. Which items do you disagree with? What is the gap between how you see your performance and how your manager sees it? Do you have objective evidence of your performance in these areas that you can bring forward for discussion?

Step 4: Create an action plan

Awareness without action is just a conversation. Create an action plan together with a timeline on how you are going to address the feedback. What kind of performance should your manager see in order to show you have taken the feedback seriously?

Step 5: Say ‘Thank You’

It is often hard for leaders to have ‘the tough conversation’. By saying ‘thank you’ and/or ‘I appreciate your commitment to my development’, you are giving your manager permission to be transparent with you, thereby ensuring you will continue to get the feedback you need to continue growing.

About Executive Coaching: What it is, why it works, and how to get started

As a coaching company that has worked with thousands of leaders around the world, we know how much of an investment coaching can be, and we also know how important it is to select a coach that’s right for you.

We wrote this guide to provide leaders like you with a comprehensive introduction to executive coaching, how it works, and how you can get maximum value from your experience.