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Perspectives on Leadership

Sometimes listening is the best tool we have as leaders, particularly when we are in a position of giving constructive feedback or receiving constructive feedback. Hearing that we need to improve or do something in a different way can be challenging. As leaders, we need to model and support our staff to receive and respond to constructive feedback in a proactive and professional manner. We can do that in how we respond and receive constructive feedback ourselves as well as how we support staff when we give constructive feedback.

Listening is the key. Being fully engaged in the conversation and concentrating on the words and message being given is crucial. Take notes of the keywords. And….before responding...breathe. We need to give ourselves, and our staff, time to process what is being heard, a chance to gather our thoughts, and then respond with reflective language. When we take a breath, we visibly model the importance of calming and processing.

Asking is also important in understanding constructive feedback and is important when giving and receiving feedback. Focus on the keywords and ask clarifying questions to gain understanding. Asking questions should drive information and not be used to defend or challenge. Constructive feedback is designed to support growth and improvement. Thus, questions need to be focused on clarifying the actions needed to achieve the expectations being discussed.

Reflect and restate. As part of the conversation around constructive feedback, strive to make sure all involved in the conversations have a common understanding of what is being discussed, what the key concerns are, and what the necessary next step actions will be. As leaders, when we allow our staff to reflect and restate, we are able to identify misconceptions and enhance understanding.

Express gratitude for the professionalism that is displayed in the growth processes. Change is hard. Giving and hearing constructive feedback is emotional. The process is important and showing appreciation for going through the process is important.

Finally, follow up with the next steps and expectations identified. Constructive feedback is only constructive when we value it with our actions. Checking back in shows that the conversation was important and that we as leaders are fully committed to achieving the actions resulting from the constructive feedback.

By Cathy Jones Parks