The Darn Thing About Feedback

Accountability Gratitude Growth mindset


Key Point: The darn thing about feedback is that when you ask for it, you are likely (assuming people have the care and interest) to get it. And even though we want it, and appreciate it, it’s not always easy to receive. But the key is to really listen, say thank you, and take it under advisement.

As I write this, we just finished a leadership conference and I did the wrap up session for the event. My colleagues and I (the top executive team of the company) got on a bus on our way to the next conference (we’re doing a short tour). My team is responsible for the conference, so in the spirit of learning and improvement, I wanted to know how people felt about the day; which involved about 500 team members. Using a feedback model that usually works well, I framed up our discussion:

“Ok all, lets debrief. What went well? What was tricky or could be done better? Suggestions for improvement?” We had a productive discussion following that outline. Now it came to feedback on the wrap up (my personal part).

Overall, I thought my wrap up was adequate, although sternly not exceptional.  I can usually tell when I’ve hit a home run, and I didn’t in this case. Following the same feedback framework, the following comments flowed from my teammates:

“I thought it might have been a bit too long.”

“I thought you didn’t need the slides.”

“I think you should have focused on three things, wrapped up with a better video.”

“You introduced three new things and phrases, and that might have confused people.”

“Why didn’t you just summarize on three things that we focused on during the day?”


Ouch! Now it’s how one frames up the feedback that will take you to a constructive spot or not. Being defensive and/or discounting the insights of others usually isn’t helpful. That often involves your ego telling you that you’re right and others are wrong. Of course, this can the become more about winning and proving you’re correct versus doing the right thing. And my experience is that embracing that perspective is likely to end badly for all. On the other hand, feedback isn’t always accurate. Sometimes we can agree to disagree. However, there is usually much wisdom in the collective view of others assuming you trust and value their insights. So tomorrow, I will punch up my wrap up, reinforce themes that were introduced during the day, and not introduce new language. It will be a stronger overall presentation.

Character Moves:

  1. If you ask for feedback and get it, there is only one thing to say after clarifying to ensure you understand: “Thank you!”
  1. Recognize that it’s ok to feel a bit disappointed after some feedback. Most of us like to hear we did great, and even though we genuinely want the feedback, it doesn’t always feel very good to hear where we missed the mark.
  1. The most important thing is to filter through the perspective of others’ and thoughtfully take feedback under advisement. Ultimately, you have a voice and independent view. The single views of others’ are often distinct data points and may not represent a true collective view. However, in that feedback is often one or two gems. All we have to do is put our ego back in its place, open ourselves up to really listen to the underlying insight and act accordingly.

Darn feedback in the Triangle,


P.S. Today my wrap up at the conference after employing the feedback I received was much more effective. Another example where openness to self improvement just makes us better. 

One Millennial View: Ever heard a successful person present the idea that “if you’re doing something someone dislikes, you’re doing something right.” You can’t please everyone. Some people say, “If you have haters, it means you’ve made it.” Those cute little quips can make eyes roll, but there seems to be some truth in that. Yet, it’s not all black and white, there’s a ton of gray. All we can do is perform our best, put our strongest work forward, tire ourselves with effort, and guess what? You’re probably still not going to blow away everyone. Since we’re likely all our own worst critics, how do you feel about how you did? If you’re brave enough to ask and be honest, your gut likely knows the truth. 

– Garrett