At Candor, we are big fans of giving and receiving feedback. It tracks directly to our mission to empower belonging at work.
We believe that learning to receive feedback well will encourage more of the same in your team and people will feel more comfortable expressing themselves. Openness to feedback shows that you are willing to hear suggestions and that you care about other people’s opinions.
Feedback is essential to your personal and professional growth. No matter what stage of your career you’re at, it’s helpful to know how you’re performing, how others perceive you, and whether there’s anything you can do better. Feedback helps you learn more about yourself and the areas you need to improve on. At a team level, it creates a culture of openness, trust, respect, and authenticity.
But asking for feedback isn’t always easy and the type of feedback you receive can trigger some very different and difficult emotions. It can be scary and feel uncomfortable. The person giving you feedback might not be that skillful in doing so (we wrote about that in a previous post). You won’t always agree with the feedback you get, and sometimes it can be hard to decipher what it all means. In this blog, we want to share some actionable tips that our team has ‘learned through’ during our collective experience of working in tech companies.
Let’s get into it.
Broadly speaking, you can think of feedback as falling into 3 main categories:
This feedback is the language of praise, appreciation, and positive comments. You’ll know this one! It feels affirming.
This isn’t really feedback at all. This is the language of blame or belittlement, where the goal is not to help the recipient grow but rather make the person giving feedback feel better in some way.
Constructive feedback focuses on behavioral change and improvement. This feedback can still be challenging to take in because it often points out areas where you can improve and thus are currently lacking. But unlike Destructive ‘feedback’, the goal here is to help the recipient grow. Think about a coach working you hard in the gym – it hurts, but it’s good for you! If delivered with skill, it is this kind of feedback that will help you build muscle, develop your growth mindset, and ultimately grow as a person.
We believe there are 6 key actions you can take to ensure you are receiving constructive feedback with grace and in doing so you encourage others to give you more feedback so that you can continue to grow.
Someone has taken the time to try to gift you information and data about where you could grow and improve. Even if they do a horrible job executing it (we’ve all probably experienced this at some point!), saying “thank you” is a great way to:
1. Show you appreciate their efforts to share their thoughts
2. Let them know you are open to more of this kind of dialogue
3. Build trust and more authentic relationships at work
It’s important to remember that they didn’t have to offer feedback and in doing so they showed you a great deal of kindness and respect.
If the conversation is synchronous then this one is super important. It’s only natural to defend yourself when someone criticizes a particular behavior — but this isn’t a good way to encourage people to speak up if they see an opportunity for you to grow.
Active listening is especially important for synchronous feedback conversations. Give the other person space to finish their whole thought without interruption.
Process the feedback. Once you’ve listened, repeat back what you heard. This might look like, “I hear you on X, is that correct?” or “Can you help me see when I did that specifically?”. The key here is to avoid challenging what they are saying and instead focus on understanding it as fully as possible.
It can be challenging to receive criticism from a peer, but remember: accurate and constructive feedback comes even from flawed sources. You may receive feedback from someone you don’t like or clash with, but that doesn’t make it invalid. At this point, the more data you have, the sharper your insight and the bigger your opportunity for growth.
If you learn about a growth area then just “actioning it” isn’t enough. This is a golden opportunity for you to invite the person who cared about you enough to give you constructive feedback to be your accountability partner for this area of growth. This looks like:
1. Agreeing to pursue an improvement in the area identified
2. Inviting the person who gave you feedback to hold you accountable for growing in that area
3. Giving them explicit permission to give you more “in-the-moment” feedback
4. Checking in with them after a few weeks to see if you landed the change
Receiving constructive feedback with grace is hard. It takes practice to train and build this muscle. Once you have it, you will get more feedback and more feedback means more self-learning and therefore more opportunity for personal development. At Candor, we think people with this learning mindset are happier, healthier, and more competent versions of their authentic selves. As Brene Brown says:
“Authenticity is a collection of choices that we have to make every day. It's about the choice to show up and be real. The choice to be honest. The choice to let our true selves be seen.”
―Brene Brown, The Gifts of Imperfection