James River Capital and 5 Ways for Managers to Receive Feedback
“Feedback” is an essential part of any manager’s job description. But just because you’re supposed to give employees feedback doesn’t mean you’re exempt from it, either. Managers aren’t untouchable: you have to get feedback not only from your superiors but from your team, too.
But few people are excited to receive feedback. After all, critical feedback can make us feel less confident at work. Even then, it’s an essential part of becoming a better worker, a better leader, and even a better person.
About James River Capital & Paul Sanders
Paul Sanders and his business partner acquired the business that would become James River Capital in 1995. In the 25 years since, Paul has served as the James River Capital CEO and Chairman. He puts his 30+ years of experience in finance to work, helping investors find ways to balance their portfolio.
James River Capital offers alternative investment programs that are designed to optimize risk and return. The company operates out of Richmond, Virginia, and focuses on diversified portfolios.
Paul’s learned firsthand how valuable feedback can be for managers whether they’re mid-level or in the C-suite.
Here is why Paul believes feedback is so important to be a strong leader, and 5 tips to better embrace feedback as a manager.
Why Managers Need Feedback Just as Much as Employees
Have you ever wondered how other people view your work, leadership style, or your decisions?
Feedback is key. As a manager, you have to know not only how to dish out feedback appropriately but how to take it like a champ. Avoid making the same mistakes, boost your chances for promotion, and improve your job satisfaction by embracing feedback. According to Paul, managers benefit in 3 ways when they master their fear of feedback.
They Become a Team Player
Your natural reaction to feedback might be, “Ugh, here it comes,” but when you learn to embrace feedback, you greet it as a welcome friend, not an enemy. Show your employees (and your boss) that you’re a team player by welcoming feedback instead of brushing it off.
You Tackle Your Weaknesses
Do you avoid conflict? Or maybe you’re struggling with running a certain report? Whatever your weakness is, every manager has areas where they’re deficient. But instead of lying back and allowing yourself to perform badly, feedback helps you address these weaknesses. Instead of sweeping everything under the rug, you actually tackle what needs to change.
You’ll feel uncomfortable that means you’re growing. You can’t afford to become comfortable with your weaknesses. Embrace feedback to be the well-rounded, effective leader you were meant to be.
You Create a Healthy Feedback Culture
When you show that you’re open to the feedback of other people, something magical happens. All of a sudden, your team starts approaching you with their own opinions and feedback and soon enough they actually start requesting your feedback.
Remember, you have a lot of responsibility as a manager. Not only do you keep the team on-task, but you set the tone for group norms. When you take feedback in stride, you’re showing your team how important it is for them to do the same.
5 Ways for Managers Receive Feedback Graciously
Feedback-happy managers are better team players, stronger leaders, and agents of cultural change. But feedback is hard. Humans are hard-wired to avoid rejection, and by extension, critical feedback. It’s hard to receive feedback and not take it personally, but that’s what you need to do as a manager.
Follow these 5 tips to receive feedback without flinching and become a better manager in the process:
Say Please and Thank You
This is hard if you dislike feedback but the first thing you should do to embrace feedback is to ask for it. Employees are naturally hesitant to give feedback to their managers. You hold a lot of power over your employees’ jobs and they don’t want to upset you.
Show that you’re willing to embrace feedback. That can be as simple as saying, “What do you think about this pitch I wrote?” or “How do you think I could improve this presentation?” You’re inviting feedback in a productive way that acknowledges your employees’ expertise while improving your work.
As far as your leadership style, don’t shy away from asking employees how you can improve. You don’t have to ask, “How can I be a better manager?” Instead, ask questions during employee one-on-ones or reviews like, “How can I better support you?” or “What do you need from me to be successful?” Take a servant leadership approach to glean more feedback from your employees.
And don’t forget your manners. Always thank your team for providing feedback. Regardless of how useful their feedback actually is, always say, “Thanks for the feedback.” This encourages your employees to continue giving you feedback and building trust and openness with you. Over time, you might even find that you don’t need to ask for feedback as much.
It’s hard to ask for feedback when you don’t want to address your shortcomings but asking for feedback proactively keeps the conversations focused and helpful.
Control your Emotions
Let’s say you traveled with your team to do a client presentation. You thought you nailed the pitch, but afterward, an employee says, “Wow, Sharon, are you okay? You were all over the place with your presentation.” That might not be the most tactful way for an employee to deliver feedback, but it’s still feedback.
You’re going to receive poorly-phrased feedback, and even then, you’re expected to keep your composure. As a manager, it’s important to not take feedback personally. This is business; it’s not a reflection of you as a human being. Taking feedback personally will automatically train your team to think twice before offering up constructive feedback that might be helpful for the entire team.
In other words, when you fail to control your emotions, you show you’re not approachable or coachable. There’s a good chance you might not stay in a leadership position for too long if you take things personally.
This requires an exercise in mental toughness. Avoid thinking, “Ugh, this is so stupid,” when you receive feedback, and assume the best when people give it to you. Remember, even poorly-delivered feedback contains nuggets of truth. If you feel yourself about to snap or roll your eyes, take a deep breath and try to diminish your stress level.
Ask for Examples
If your team tells you that you bombed a presentation, they are giving you feedback but it’s not constructive because it’s so vague. Your job is to take their feedback and make adjustments but if you don’t know what specifically needs to be improved, you can’t learn.
Ask your employees to pair their feedback with examples. If your employee is concerned about your presentation skills, they might say, “You were clicking through the slides too fast,” or “You spoke too fast and no one could understand you.” That’s specific feedback that you can actually work on.
Remember, it can be hard to think of examples on the spot. If your employee can’t think of any specific examples, encourage them to tactfully point it out if it comes up again in the future.
Engage with the Feedback
You might be tempted to nod at the feedback, say “I’m working on it,” and never address it again. But the key to healthy feedback habits is to engage with the feedback and create a conversation.
Ask questions and get clarity on the feedback. Sometimes the feedback might not even really touch on the heart of the real problem. For example, your employee might comment on your presentation skills but what they really want to say is that your professionalism is lacking. If you want to act on this feedback and become a better leader, you’ve got to ask for clarification into what the feedback is addressing.
You can also try repeating back their feedback in your own words. State the facts and summarize the heart of the employee’s feedback. Something like, “You feel that I was unprofessional or unfocused during the presentation?” Repeating it back helps you both get on the same page. It also shows you’re listening and taking the feedback seriously.
And remember, say this in a monotone, judgment-free voice. Control your emotions, especially when you disagree or think the feedback is unfair.
Create a Game Plan and Follow-Up on it
The most important part of receiving feedback is creating a plan to implement it. Don’t go through the process of encouraging and receiving the feedback if you’re going to brush it off.
Create an accountability plan for feedback. If your employee is concerned about your presentation skills, schedule a few check-ins to talk about how you’re doing. Create a plan of attack to make the feedback real. Collaborate with your employees on the plan and ask for their support. Say something like, “I’m going to work on my presentation skills. Let’s check in on this again after next month’s presentation. Would you be willing to offer feedback?”
The Bottom Line
Some managers become irate, defensive, or sad when they receive feedback from their team. But if you want a positive, productive workplace, you have to flex your feedback muscles. You aren’t done growing once you’re in a leadership position. If anything, critical feedback is your key to continue climbing the ladder at your organization.
Remember, nobody sets out to be a bad manager. It’s up to you to solicit and use feedback to keep improving your leadership skills.