What do we do with feedback?

by Sheeba Varghese, PCC

Robert Allen says that there is no failure,  only feedback. Yet, often when clients receive  feedback they feel like a failure. So, what should you do when you receive feedback?

Over the years, we have come to see how essential feedback is not only for our career development but also for our self-development. It gives us a better understanding of how to avoid or manage conflicts and resolve issues. It truly is the key to improvement.


“We all need people who will give us feedback. That’s how we improve.”

Bill Gates

What is the mindset that is valuable when we read feedback?

  1. Remind yourself “why” you have asked for feedback.

When all the feedback comes in, overwhelm and defeat can easily set in. We begin to determine which contributor said what and proceed to defend why we did what we did.  Yet, we have then lost sight from the original purpose of this activity. It was not for self-induced suffering, but to support your “why”.

  • Did you want to understand your strengths and weaknesses?
  • Did you want to see how you are being perceived?
  • Did you want to see what changes would be helpful to expand your influence?
  • Did you want to truly improve?
  • Did you want to grow within your organization?
  1. Identify the patterns that keep showing up within the feedback.

In any feedback compiled from 10-15 people, there will be so much that is shared. Who doesn’t want to “vomit” everything they feel about a certain person, especially when they are asked with anonymity?!

So, take time to identify the patterns. Don’t get caught up in justifying things. Instead, notice what keeps coming up because that is something valuable to understand and perhaps change to promote clarity and alignment.


“Criticism may not be agreeable, but it is necessary. It fulfils the same function as pain in the human body. It calls attention to an unhealthy state of things.”

–Winston Churchill

  1. Remember that feedback reflects the perceptions of others about you.

Have you heard different leaders say, “I don’t mean to… or I thought I already do that…” It matters little, whether we intended to do something or not. The perceptions shared within feedback is their truth. It is real for them. Part of gathering the feedback is to bridge the gap regarding the perceptions of how others see you compared to how you see yourself. How will you know until you have asked others?  So, feedback fills the void of ambiguity, and it allows you to see how you are truly being perceived.

“Negative feedback can make us bitter or better.”

-Robin Sharma

  1. Be aware that there will be conflicting feedback.

If you have a conversation with 3 children that grew up together, I am sure each one will have a different experience of their relationship with their parents. So, how does that relate to you? Depending on who is asked, the experience felt is different and thus it can result in conflicting feedback. Yes, this can cause confusion. What do you do with that?

Well, take time to understand the context. How would your direct reports relate to you differently from your peers or upper management? Delve into the heart of the matter and see if there is something you could do to improve or change that would impact their experience of you. Feedback is a source of learning and growing. It inspires dialogues such as this. Continue to embrace the heart of the matter and remember that only a 5% change can make a huge difference.

“One of the greatest insights you can impart to a future leader is the importance of viewing feedback as a gift rather than a threat.

– Howard M. Guttman

  1. Decide the actions steps you will take.

Now that you have read through the feedback, decide what you will do. All of this feedback is not for you just to read it and put it away until a crisis happens. No, this is where you can be proactive in your actions. What do you want to do differently? What will you commit to changing? Understand your motivation to do so. Do you want to expand your leadership?

  • Do you want to engage your staff differently?
  • Do you want to empower and motivate your staff?

You make decisions, take actions, affect the world, receive feedback from the world, incorporate it into yourself, then the updated ‘you’ makes more decisions, and so forth, ‘round and round’.

-Douglas Hofstadter

Although feedback can be painful at times, it goes without saying that the end result can be quite valuable in the bigger picture of your growth, development, and improvement within your role and within the ways you lead, communicate and relate to others. These results produce greater levels of engagement, productivity, and empowerment for your organization. So, the next time you receive feedback, what is the mindset you will choose to cultivate?




For executive coaching for new and emerging leaders, conflict management and leadership presence coaching with Sheeba,
schedule a consultation here.