Accepting Feedback

At the end of every course I teach at IESE Business School, all participants give extensive feedback on their experience of the course, the facilities… and on my role as a teacher.

When the summarized feedback reaches me a couple of weeks later, I open the pdf in a state of nervous tension.  I am preparing myself emotionally for the news contained in the report.  If the report is positive, I start to relax and enjoy the feeling of professional competence.

Photo Credit: Ben Heine
Photo Credit: Ben Heine

However, the last few quotes on the report are always the “areas for improvement”.  I get tense again, and start already to justify myself before I even start reading.

I love positive feedback.  I hate “developmental” feedback.  I pretend sometimes to appreciate it, but I resist it fiercely inside my mind.

I am pretty sure that I am not alone.

I rationally know that it is the developmental feedback that can most help me improve, but I find it very hard in the moment to accept it and work with it.  I feel it as a personal attack, not as an objective opinion of a friendly student who wholeheartedly wishes to see the institution of IESE Business School improve with their advice.

What do you do to “accept” developmental feedback?  Are there any things that have changed your willingness to be open to and even seek out developmental feedback?


11 responses to “Accepting Feedback”

  1. […] you want to explore more about getting good feedback for your growth, you could continue reading Accepting Feedback and Managing Oneself.  You should also check out Entrepreneurs Organisation, Young Presidents […]

  2. […] the necessary skills and abilities to do their job and achieve the vision. They give and receive feedback regularly, and coach people to improve […]

  3. Although I am not at all close to what you are but I have started teaching recently and I believe if you are well informed and honest, students will respect you.
    So, I believe first step towards accepting developmental feedback is to accept that we as humans are not perfect and we keep growing until we die. So, everything we do is a learning process. This way you will remain humble and open to productive criticism. Secondly, ask question. More often than not, people just say things for the sake of it, ask them what they meant by things if they pointed out at a certain thing. This will not just help you understand their opinions better but will also filter out waste comments.

    Hope I was a little help to you Sir.

  4. A very intelligent question Conor. Firstly, once we have decided as teachers and coaches to help the people out there to find ways to make more impact, we too rock the same boat. Continuous improvement from our side is equally essential to give back to the society that we have chosen to help.
    I personally got upset in the very beginning of the process and used words and expressions to put my thoughts and opinions through. The result was lesser feedback. Now, no feedback was a ‘developmental’ feedback in itself 😉
    This had to change and I started doing my research as to how to deal with feedback, may it be critical or “developmental” as you state. I found out that asking people questions about what they wanted me to change allowed them to speak more which in reality lead me to the fixing of the gaps I had left. I was amazed to see people engaging and helping me improve while I was devoting more time to help them as well.
    Questions helped me to face feedback with a smile. 🙂

    1. Thank you Sukhilongia – Now that I am consciously intent on accepting the feedback first, and analysing it later – I am getting better in not getting defensive 😉

  5. The challenge is what feedback to do something about. Is it one comment, an outlier that seems to go against the grain? Does it come up multiple times and therefore resonates with many? You can’t take every individual’s multiple comments on board since there will be too many but it might be useful to look at the one comment made multiple times. A last thought: people can phrase things poorly and lose the jewel in the comment. If it “sounds” like an affront, re-word it in your own mind without losing its basis and see if you agree a bit more.

    1. I read somewhere that “haters hate because of something that happened to them, not because of you” – or some such idea… I guess it is important to separate out feedback that is intended to help me, versus feedback that is an angry persons attempt at causing pain.

  6. I don’t like “constructive” feedback either. I defend it, but kind of against my will 🙂 One way to learn to digest it is to get exposed to constructive and quality feedback on a frequent basis. I’ve learned this at Toastmasters, where everything gest evaluated at every meeting.

    1. Yep, I’ve seen how people who have been members of Toastmasters for a few years become exceptionally good at taking feedback – I guess, as in so many things, practice does improve us 😉

  7. It just shows you are a human being. I guess this is something we all have in our DNA trying to reduce energy consumption: any change implies energy to be applied.
    I guess the most important point is knowing that this will happen, because this will let us put that thinkings aside and help us improving our performance. A lot of us we are not even conscious of that, and so, we just keep in our comfort area satisfying the desires of our mitochondria!

    1. Yep, we are human beings; not “rational robot beings”. Important not to forget…

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