How good are you at receiving critical feedback?

How good are you at receiving it from people you lead or supervise?

Would those individuals agree with your answer?

Formally or informally, have you communicated you’re willing to receive critical feedback?

Most leaders can offer some helpful and authoritative perspective from within their role.  When we hear talks or read articles on leadership, performance, and delegation, we’re usually thinking about how we can translate those ideas to the people we lead. So when we think about feedback, we’re usually thinking about how we can effectively give feedback to them. Rarely do we consider feedback from the perspective of receiving it.

Honest Self-Assessment

Are you a good model for your team in the reception of critical feedback? Have they seen you react negatively to it, or have they seen you receive it but never allow it to affect your behaviors?

When’s the last time you solicited feedback from those you work with?

When’s the last time you did or said something that sent a mixed message about whether you really do want feedback?

Receiving Critical Feedback Well

Recently Mike Bonem led the supervisors on our staff through the RAD group’s Performance Compass. There was significant value in it. I’m not going to try to replicate his content here, but one small part focused on feedback, and how we receive it from those we supervise. Using some thoughts from the material and my own experience, here’s some tips for receiving critical feedback that comes from those you lead —

  1. Be humble, and realize you too need to develop
  2. Listen fully, and ask clarifying questions as needed
  3. Listen for their intent and don’t get lost in their delivery (they may not be skilled in providing feedback and they’re likely nervous anyhow)
  4. Don’t make excuses for your decisions/behaviors
  5. Don’t tell them you’ll change if you have no intention to (it’d be better to listen, reflect, and if you don’t think their input was valid, meet them again and let them know why)
  6. Look for what’s valid in their feedback… sometimes it’s hidden, but it’s there
  7. Honor their courage for providing the feedback and acknowledge what they’ve done
Leading differently based on feedback you receive will show those you supervise that you value them

Even if those you lead don’t voluntarily provide feedback, there are still ways to get it:

  • Ask the right questions in their reviews (I’ve blogged about “the better question in a performance review” previously)
  • Host online surveys that allow them to speak frankly and anonymously (we use Survey Monkey to develop two free staff wide surveys each year to measure our staff culture and how we serve each other as ministries)
  • Conduct 360 reviews of yourself
  • Take advantage of informal conversations with those you lead by asking questions like, “So if you were in charge of that event, what are some things you might’ve done differently?”


A good leader is not only good at giving feedback, but also at receiving it from those they lead. Many times, they have a perspective you can’t gain unless you purposely seek it – and once you do receive it, you have to be responsible for what you hear. Leading differently based on feedback you receive will show those you supervise that you value them – and a little humility goes a long way, when serving others and leading well.

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