03/14/2016 03:24 EDT | Updated 03/15/2017 05:12 EDT

How To Receive Feedback That Empowers You At Work

Wherever it comes from, whomever it comes from, we have to believe that the feedback is coming from a good place to help us be the best that we can be. Even in times of challenging, difficult-to-hear feedback, there are messages that need to be heard and understood.

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We've all had feedback at work. Sometimes the feedback is exactly what we want to hear and it gives us great satisfaction and pleasure. Sometimes, the feedback is unexpected and surprising -- in a good way or not-so-good way. Sometimes, the feedback is sought out and you request it from someone. Whether the feedback you receive is wanted or unwanted, expected or unexpected, you need to learn to be open to receiving all feedback. Once it's received, you need to move to a place where what is being said is looked at as an opportunity.

Wherever it comes from, whomever it comes from, we have to believe that the feedback is coming from a good place to help us be the best that we can be. Even in times of challenging, difficult-to-hear feedback, there are messages that need to be heard and understood.

Feedback will come from around and across the organization, internally and externally. Feedback should be expected from your manager on a regular basis to help you grow as a contributor, a leader and a team member. Feedback will come from your peers -- those with whom you work closest and with whom you have trusted relationships or common ground. Feedback will come from clients. In fact, client feedback is probably the most regular feedback you will receive since it is often tied to strategies, plans and planning sessions. Feedback will come from stakeholders, vendors, contributors, and consumers and from others with whom you have a connected (not necessarily close) relationship.

So, how do you successfully receive and process feedback from all of these sources? Here are some considerations to put you in a position of empowerment and learning the next time you are given feedback.

Assume intent is from a good place

Intent has to be believed as genuine, honest, authentic, meaningful and most importantly, helpful and useful. Even if it's not what you want to hear from the person you didn't want to hear it from, you have get past baggage, negativity and distrust. No matter who delivers the feedback, the person delivering the message thinks you need to hear it. They have made the decision, thoughtful or otherwise, to tell you what you did, how it affected them or others, and hopefully how you can make it better.

Go beyond the words that are spoken to the meaning of the words spoken

Do you understand what was said to you? It is important to not only hear words, but we have to understand what they are saying, how they are saying and why they are saying it. Sometimes what we hear a person saying and what we understand they have said are two different things. This is where you might have to do some perception checking and active listening. Ask for clarification, ask for examples or ask them to repeat what they said so you can hear it again. Active listening allows you to check in that what you thought you heard is actually what was said: "So what you are saying is..." It's your responsibility to find that place of shared understanding. Don't you want to understand the meaning of the feedback you just received?

Consider what you will do with the information

"Thank you" or "I appreciate your feedback" may not be enough. You need to hear the feedback, accept the intent, understand the feedback and then focus on next steps. Are there corrections, improvements or changes that need to be made? Is it as simple as continuing, stopping or adjusting a behaviour, action or activity? Do you need help to get there? Will you and can you ask for help? What is your decision for next steps?

Implement your next steps

Whatever you decide to do next is your decision. You control the 'now what' stage of feedback. Even if you've been told to do something through feedback, you ultimately decide on what you will do, how you will do it and when you will do it. When you have considered the information, understand the intent and have chosen your next steps, you have understood and accepted the value of the feedback. How can that be a bad thing?

Check in to see how you're doing

Whether it's feedback that was positive, negative or somewhere in between, it's not a bad idea to check and ask how you are doing. If your feedback was about performance, behaviour or missed communications you should check back in to the message deliverer to see if you've made progress. This might not be an easy task but by taking responsibility and demonstrating accountability you can grow as a leader and contributor and ultimately become more effective.

Feedback is an important part of who we are as employees, leaders and contributors. If we understand the value of feedback and take a positive approach to receiving it, it can help us grow, change and become better at what we do and who we are. These steps might not seem easy, but if we understand the process of how we can hear, accept and act on feedback, it can be valuable to our professional and personal growth.

Judy Mann is a consultant | advisor with Judy Mann Communications. She offers internal and external Communications and PR services as well as specialized group and individual sessions and workshops on increasing interpersonal communications effectiveness, relationship building, public speaking and presentation style and delivery.

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