Leadership in the Workplace: Feedback is a Gift

We all say we want feedback, but when it really comes down to it, sometimes we feel offended thus leaving us with regret over the very idea of wanting feedback. After giving this topic much thought, I found myself reflecting on two main questions:

1) How receptive are you to getting feedback?

2) How honest and forthright are you when providing feedback to others?

When it comes to me, it is well documented that becoming a better listener remains a challenge. This dates back about 20 years. A few years out of college, I was a brand new sales rep. My mentor at the time shared some feedback with me that I remember to this day. He said, “As you grow your skills and advance, always remember to talk less and listen more.” Ouch. I thought I was just a strong extrovert! This was the first time I gave serious consideration to the possibility that he was soft pedaling a deeper point.

Later that very same day, my mentor came back to me to make sure I understood that I had many great skills, but the message was lost when I continued to talk more and listen less. For initially, I thought to myself, “Got it. Thanks”. How naive of me back then. But, it has been my steady reflection on that day many years hence  which has helped me understand what I needed address in order to advance my career. For me, it amounted to improving my listening skills. Because it is still something I battle, frustration persists.  I have learned that it takes courage to face feedback and truly respect it for the constructive exercise intended, despite how long it may take to master the change.


Everyone says they want feedback but do they really want it? Feedback can sting and expose our blindspots but asking for feedback is a way of building leadership skills. It amazes me how you will overhear managers discussing direct reports’ strengths and weaknesses. Often, this takes place when managers sit down with HR and direct reports to discuss performance review. Leaving a review shocked by the performance ratings, is a classic way to gauge if both the manager and the direct report are working together to enhance the gift of feedback. For the manager, if you’re surprised then this means your people do not hear directly from you what they need to work on. From the direct report point of view, you may not be asking for enough feedback from your manager, missing an opportunity to create a partnership around your career development. Ways to increase any leader’s capacity for feedback include:

  • Before your boss can offer you feedback, go in and ask him/her, “How do you think I performed in today’s meeting?”
  • Ask for future suggestions on how you can improve your performance
  • Make your boss a partner in your ownership of the feedback and ask, “On a scale of 1-10, how strong were my listening skills today and what impact will that have on my career development?”

I have a favorite book that has been invaluable to me in my career: Marshall Goldsmith’s “What got you here won’t get you there”. I highly recommend this book for anyone who wants to advance in their career. You will not regret it! This book builds the case for why we need courage and candor to be open to receiving and giving feedback. Whether the feedback is easy or difficult to deliver, it will certainly be beneficial. Always thank the person who gives you feedback because it took great courage for them to care enough to share it with you!


Feedback is a gift and it can have far reaching impact on those around you. When you ask for more feedback, your direct reports and peers will too. Funny how that pendulum swings, creating a culture where personal growth requires our ability to recognize we all have strengths to utilize and opportunities to learn, too. While direct reports expect feedback, how do you help a peer? Let them know you want their feedback and that if they ever need the same, you will be happy to support them in return. Just remember to deliver the feedback with grace and humility. In my experience, it is not what you say but how you say it.

So, take time to ask that friend, peer, or direct report what feedback they have for you. It will be a huge gift for both of you.