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Receiving Feedback as a Leader

When it comes to receiving feedback as a leader, how do you protect yourself in terms of self-care?

The Need for Self Care

A few weeks ago, I wrote a post introducing the church leadership evaluation form I use to ask the people I lead to evaluate me on an annual basis. A friend contacted me to ask how I intended to protect myself in terms of self-care when I receive my responses. That got me thinking!

Take Your Time

The first thing I do is to take my time in analysing the feedback before responding or reacting. The last time I carried out my annual leadership evaluation survey, I took the responses on holiday, and analysed them during my devotional times, focusing on one or two questions a day. At the very least I would think about setting aside five hours, away from the office, to think through the feedback you receive. That’s 30 minutes per question, if you follow my template. Pray before, during and after reading the responses.

I don’t like receiving feedback as a leader, especially if it’s critical. It hurts! I hate hearing I’m not perfect! The feedback you receive is likely to raise some negative emotions, and it’s easy to think the right thing to do is simply to push past them and get on with it. You need to give yourself some time to accept these emotions and to bounce back from difficult feedback before you respond. Journaling about how you are feeling may help at this stage.

Speak to a Trusted Friend

I have often been blindsided when receiving feedback as a leader, as some of the responses are completely disorientating. It can be a shock to learn that people don’t see you the way you see yourself! When that happens, we need to better understand the feedback we are receiving. One of the best ways to do this is to ask a trusted friend if they have seen the same behaviour in you as the feedback you have received. This may give us more information about what we are doing to create a certain impression, or it may leave us safe in the knowledge that we don’t need to correct ourselves, because the opinion we have read is only one person’s opinion. I am so grateful that my wife Gail is able to give constructive criticism and a different perspective to the feedback I receive.

Look for Themes

It is tempting to obsess about that one, ultra-critical response that’s received. The way I have found to avoid this is to look for themes from the various responses received and to be ready to discount any responses that seem to indicate someone’s personal agenda or preferences. If you can spot a theme, it’s likely that’s an important issue you may need to deal with. For example, if one person responds that a thirty minute sermon is too long, then that may just be a personal preference (although you may prayerfully decide there’s something in that anyway). If on the other hand, 75 per cent of your respondents are saying a thirty minute sermon is too long, well, then they may have a point!

Look for a Quick Win

When it comes to responding to receiving feedback as a leader, consider it carefully. Come up with some long term solutions and let the responders know what you’re going to do. But if you can, see if you can find a “quick win” that you can implement at the same time as letting people know your response. This will build trust with them quickly and show you are listening to their feedback. Going back to our example of the thirty minute sermon, perhaps you should make the sermon after receiving the evaluation feedback only twenty minutes long. Your listeners will thank you!

Receiving Feedback as a Leader

Receiving feedback as a leader can be hard. But perhaps the best way to respond is to admit our flaws – to ourselves and to those giving the feedback – and then to change the things we can. Maybe that’s the best form of self-care, because it means we are continuing to grow as leaders.

What about you? How do you protect yourself when receiving feedback as a leader? Why not comment below.

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