I’ve written multiple times on this blog about the right way to deliver feedback, but have not yet addressed the equally important skill of receiving feedback. As a leader, you need to be able to do both effectively.
Receiving feedback is one of the hardest skills for any leader to master. Chances are you are a high-performing individual who likes to give every task their all, and as such does not like being told you’ve made a mistake. That’s where your mindset has to shift. Just as your employees can’t grow and develop without receiving feedback, neither can you. You have to let down your shield and be open to hearing what other people think of your performance.
It’s a bit like being a lobster. Lobsters grow by molting or shedding their shells. They molt anywhere between 20 and 30 times within the first 5 years of their lives and are left shell-less each time for 2-3 weeks. During this time they are extremely vulnerable to predators, but it is also when they are actually growing. While without a shell their bodies absorb water and increase in size. If they don’t shed their shell they will stop growing and die.
Similarly, you cannot receive the constructive feedback that you need in order to be the best person you can be if you constantly have your armor on. You need to be open to hearing, and acting on, feedback from others. You have to be vulnerable, admit that you’re not perfect, and ask others for help. Not an easy task for most leaders who are used to doing everything themselves.
By being open to feedback and constructive criticism, you can model the behavior that you want to see in your employees and build a true culture of feedback. A culture where feedback is seen as a positive and an exciting element of growth, not a scary once-a-year requirement. You can build a company that is constantly improving and innovating. All you have to do is shed your shell.