Conversations as a leadership intervention
We hear a lot about the art of giving feedback, but less about the skills involved in receiving feedback. The way you respond when you perceive a critical message sends a powerful signal about what leaders care about. That makes it one of the most important factors that shape the culture – usually not something best done off the top of your head.
- You can send a positive signal in response to even the most negative or clumsily-phrased message. I once saw a Chief Executive turn the mood of 500 people around just by the way he listened to and acknowledged the fierce anger of a junior employee when she attacked him in an open meeting about the downsizing he was leading.
- Don’t take it personally – however personal it is. Remind yourself that learning can be extracted from almost any experience, and you can put this one to good use.
- Re-frame if necessary. Look for a meaningful or useful message in what’s being said (however buried) and play it back: “What I’m taking from this is…”
- Say thank you for taking the trouble to talk. It’s not easy to say difficult things (much easier to talk behind your back), so make it easier for them, not harder, and acknowledge the courage and effort it took, even if you didn’t enjoy it.