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Using Feedback to Become a Better Leader

As a leader, you're used to providing feedback to your team or clients. But receiving and implementing feedback in relation to your own performance can be more of a challenge. Depending on where you are on the career ladder, you might receive very little external input about your performance, or you might not have someone at hand to help you understand and implement that feedback.

The good news is that not only is sourcing feedback good for you, but it's also good for your team as well. It helps position you as a leader who is eager to learn and improve and also creates additional trust and transparency.

Here's how to procure - and leverage - the feedback that can help you become a better leader.

How to Source Feedback

If you want to continuously improve as a leader, you need to seek feedback regularly. Here's how to get the input that you need.

  • Read the room. Sourcing feedback doesn't have to be an explicit action. Walk the four corners of the office and chat with people as you go. Are you hearing negativity? Are people stressed or frustrated? Try to get to the source of these frustrations and use them as an opportunity to change how things are done.

  • Avoid "yes/no" questions. Directly asking people for feedback can sometimes make them clam up. No one wants to criticize their superior, after all. Ask open-ended questions, and make those questions about them, not about you. Ask how you can make their life easier or what you could start or stop doing to improve their working day.

  • Guide your sources. If there's an area you want specific input about, prompt your sources with specific questions or topics. If you suspect you have a "blind spot" in your leadership, highlight that too - perhaps your team can help you understand that more deeply.

  • Really listen to a response. Work on actively listening to all responses - and keeping your own input to a minimum. The goal is to understand, not to defend yourself. Give your team member time to think through their response - then thank them for their feedback when they're done. Remember that people might not go "on the record" with feedback, so read between the lines to hear what they're really saying.

  • Find a mentor. If you're struggling to source feedback from your team, think more broadly. You might be able to find someone who works at a similar level or in a different department to bounce feedback off reciprocally.

How to Implement Feedback

Hearing feedback is one thing. Actually, implementing it can be more of a challenge. Here's where to start.

  • Take it as neutral information. It's easy to feel defensive when receiving feedback. Try to think about feedback as not being about you but as a data point that can help your team and the larger organization perform better. See feedback as a constructive tool, not a destructive one.

  • Double down on your good points. When we receive feedback, we hear the negative - and dismiss the positive. Listen to your team when they share what you're doing well, and keep working to cultivate those strengths.

  • Figure out a response. Identify a path forward, and communicate it to the person who raised the issue. You don't have to solve every problem all at once, but try to have a "next step" ready, even if it's something as simple as letting a superior know that a problem exists. If the problem can't be resolved, let the person know - don't just ignore their input.

  • Identify what a "win" looks like. It's easier to make a change if you can see the end result. If your issue is talking over people, make a note of when you do this (and don't). Every meeting you go to without interrupting someone is a "win" - and something you can celebrate.

  • Keep sourcing and implementing. The needs of an organization are always changing. Don't make sourcing feedback a one-off thing - bake it into how you do things. That way, you can get into a positive cycle of sourcing feedback and implementing changes until your organization is running as smoothly as possible.

Lead Better with CEO Tools

Feedback is a driving force for improving your leadership skills - and taking that next step in your career. If you're ready to go further as a leader and build an organization that's easier to manage, explore the CEO Tools Learning Modules. Brimming with expert guidance and simple, effective tools, each short, self-contained module will give you actionable insight into how to become a more effective leader.

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