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Delivering feedback can be tough. But it also takes practice to receive tough and candid feedback well, too.

That was part of the message delivered by Claire Lew, CEO of Know Your Team, at the Small Giants Summit last week in Detroit, Michigan.

Claire’s company, Know Your Team, helps companies know their teams better. Claire was one of many values-driven speakers at this year’s Summit which focused on the theme of courage.

“The way that you receive feedback determines how much of an echo chamber that you’re creating with your team,” said Claire during her presentation. “Your reaction as a leader or as an individual contributor sets the tone for how likely that person is going to come to you with the truth the next time,” she said.

We’ve all dismissed feedback after receiving it, or maybe we’ve even gotten defensive! (No, not me…)

There are several barriers which make us less likely to benefit from feedback that’s given to us. Here are two of those triggers that Claire shared with us:

  • Our identity and how we see ourselves. Maybe that piece of feedback seems to go against everything we believe about ourselves. That can be tough to swallow when feedback conflicts with our sense of self.
  • The relationship we have with that person. Maybe we don’t trust that person, or we feel like they’re always “out to get us.” Or, on the other hand, maybe we’re very close with that person and we write off their feedback, and just don’t take it serious enough. Because we focus on the relationship we have with that person giving us feedback, we don’t absorb the message.

Although there are other triggers, too, Claire also shared a few techniques we can all utilize to really become better at receiving feedback. In my mind, it’s all about becoming more coachable.

How to Receive Feedback From Others

Here are a few tips to create a culture that can be honest and open through feedback:

Assume positive intent. A great place to start is to assume the other person has the best intentions. This is one of the most effective ways to avoid being defensive. If you do find yourself being defensive, start with this step.

Take a 3-4 second pause. We’ve all been there: we’re hearing feedback and we want to explain ourselves and we want to share the information the other person is missing!

Instead of jumping in, or not listening to the other person, avoid the tendency to respond or to justify your actions. Instead, take a three to four second pause after you hear someone’s entire piece of feedback for you.

Focus on empathy. Realize that the other person is trying to help you. It takes discipline, but make empathy your mission when hearing the feedback so you can actually be open to understanding. The point, after all, isn’t just to defend yourself. The point is to hear (and learn from) their perspective.

Take notes. Take notes as someone gives you feedback. It helps you to avoid talking, and it shows you are receptive and open to changing your behavior.

Claire also explained that just because we receive feedback well, doesn’t mean we’re agreeing to it! That’s important to remember, too. All in all, giving candid feedback and being able to hear and listen to feedback is so important for our small businesses.

Hopefully these tips help you as much as they are helping me.

Did you miss part one in our series? See the lessons learned on delivering honest feedback here.

Get Involved with Small Giants in Cincinnati

On June 21, 2019, successful business owner, author and speaker Nick Sarillo—an active Small Giants community member—will be the next leader interviewed in our Small Giants Executive Breakfast Series at Cooper Creek on business culture, entrepreneurship, leadership and customer loyalty.

As the founder and CEO of Nick’s Pizza & Pub and The Trust & Track Institute, his businesses serve as a great example of how living your company’s purpose and values creates a world-class culture achieving award-winning customer service, higher margins and an engaged, productive workforce.

Nick’s Pizza is one of the top ten busiest independent pizza companies in per-store sales,  and has margins nearly twice that of the average pizza restaurant. Stay up to date on the latest speakers and events by EO and Small Giants here.