What happens when you are the leader, and someone brings a concern to you? How do you handle it? And how do you respond? This is a key skill that we need to develop, because we all will get feedback from others in our leadership.
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As leaders, it’s inevitable that we will receive feedback and criticism. And since we cannot control what other people say about us or how they go about bringing us their concerns, we can control how we respond.
In this episode, I’m following up on the earlier episode about how to bring a concern to a leader with thoughts on how we should deal with being on the receiving end of feedback. I’ll share with you 3 steps to take and we will also discuss the bigger picture about why it matters so much how we respond to feedback.
3 Steps to Responding to Feedback as a Leader
“When you’re a leader, it feels like people dehumanize you sometimes.” – Chris Hodges – Carey Nieuwhof Leadership Podcast Episode 431
Isn’t that true? As leaders, we can be criticized and critiqued at any moment for any reason. And it’s often easy for people to say things about us or to us via social media, email, or text that they would never say to our faces.
Sometimes we receive feedback directly in person, and other times we receive it indirectly online. Holly and I talked about responding to criticism back on episode 61, but today I’m going to focus on how we handle it when someone brings us a concern or feedback.
Step 1: Evaluate the Feedback
Consider the source of the feedback. Who is bringing this concern to your attention? Also look at the content of the feedback. Is there truth to what is being said?
Take time to honestly evaluate the feedback before you dive into a response.
Step 2: Process the Feedback
After you’ve objectively evaluated the feedback, now you can be a bit more subjective:
- How does the feedback make you feel?
- Why is it impacting you? Sometimes it’s because there’s truth; other times it’s because it’s hitting a nerve from a previous wound or it could be an area of insecurity or even sin.
It’s important to allow yourself to process the feedback (if you have time to do so) before responding so that you don’t say or do something you might regret.
Step 3: Respond to the Feedback–Maybe
Keep in mind that not every comment, concern, or piece of feedback deserves a response, especially on social media. If a complete stranger on the internet writes you a nasty email, you may or may not need to respond. But if your best friend comes to you with a concern, then you definitely want to respond to her feedback.
Most of the time, our natural inclination is to get defensive; try not to do this. Instead, try doing the following:
- Thank the person for bringing their concern to you. If you want to be a person who is safe to your team members or followers, then it’s important for them to know that you are a safe place to bring their concerns (more on that later).
- Validate their concerns. Let them know they have been heard. This is NOT the same as agreeing with their concerns or the way they brought them to you. But it is important for you to let them know they have been heard.
“Being heard is so close to being loved that for the average person, they are almost indistinguishable.”- David W. Augsburger, Caring Enough to Hear and Be Heard
- Let them know your response to the concern or feedback.
- Share in what ways you agree and/or found it beneficial to hear their thoughts
- Tell them what action steps you’re going to take, if any
- Provide an explanation, if needed, for the stance or position you hold (without being defensive)
Remember: Feedback is an opportunity for growth.
Why Our Response to Feedback is So Important: Becoming a Safe Place
The bigger issue here is that we as leaders directly impact the culture of the teams we lead. Angie Tonini-Rogers pointed this out on last week’s episode. And if we as the leader are not setting the example of being open to feedback, then it will create a culture of being closed and/or defensive as a team.
Some of the best leaders that I have seen are ones who regularly invite feedback from their team. They seek it out… they ask for it! They provide clear avenues for it to happen.
If we as leaders did this more often–created a regular rhythm of asking for feedback–the criticism may come less frequently. Because people would feel comfortable sharing their thoughts and feedback more openly, especially if you respond in a positive way.
As Christian leaders, we do not want people to feel intimidated, unsafe, or nervous about bringing concerns to us. Does that mean we allow people to walk all over us and treat us poorly? No, but it does mean that we practice living out the fruit of the spirit.
Scriptures referenced: Colossians 3:12-17 & Proverbs 15:1
Reflection Action Step:
Take some time to consider if you have created a safe place for those you lead, whether it’s your children, your employees, your volunteers at church, etc.
Answer the following questions:
- How do I respond when someone brings feedback to me? Do I feel defensive and angry? Or do I remain calm? Are my feathers easily ruffled?
- If I do get upset about feedback, why? Try to get to the root of the issue…. Maybe it’s pride.
- Do people bring me concerns directly ever? If not, why not? It could be that I have not created an avenue or environment where they feel safe doing so. Perhaps I need to consider creating a way for people to offer feedback… and make sure that if it exists that I do not shut it down immediately.
- What can I do to create a culture where feedback is safe to both give and receive? Humility is key, and it’s part of a healthy organization and leadership. But we must model this ourselves.
If leaders could get better at being open and receiving feedback, we would have healthier homes, churches, and workplaces. AND, if we as team members, church members, would change the way we bring concerns to our leaders, they might feel less afraid to receive feedback.
This is a 2-way street and it’s important for us not to throw blame around. Ultimately, we can only take responsibility for how we handle a situation–whether we are giving or receiving feedback.
Let’s take time today to evaluate whether we are creating a safe place for receiving feedback or not. And if not, let’s bring that to God in prayer, let’s confess, and let’s make some changes to move forward in a different way.
“Not every comment, concern, or piece of feedback deserves a response, especially on social media.”
“Being heard is so close to being loved that for the average person, they are almost indistinguishable.”- David W. Augsburger
“The best leaders are ones who regularly invite feedback from their team.”
“We do not want people to feel intimidated, unsafe, or nervous about bringing concerns to us.”
“Humility is key, and it’s part of a healthy organization and leadership.”
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