We all need people who will give us feedback. That’s how we improve. — Bill Gates
As a teacher, you will certainly be the recipient of some negative feedback, solicited or otherwise. The comments may focus in on your teaching style, how well you communicate, whether a child likes you, etc. Even if the remark was delivered with constructive intent, you may resent the experience and develop a negative view of a parent, child or administrator.
It is important to remember that there is nothing to be gained from harboring negative thoughts. Almost every form of criticism can teach us something powerful about ourselves. The next time that someone approaches you with some unwanted feedback consider doing the following:
- Listen well. Hear them out without interruption. Mirror back what you heard for clarification. If there is something that you disagree with, hold it until the end. This way you validate them and open further lines of communication. It’s always best for the concern to come directly to you rather than to others.
- Respond carefully. Try to avoid sounding defensive. Leave your ego to the side and accept warranted concerns as well as viable advice. If you are unsure about the validity of feedback or what to do with it, ask for time to respond. Make sure to get back to the other party in a timely fashion and with a real game plan (see below). Ask for feedback about the plan.
- Thank them. Let them know that you appreciate the fact that they brought this matter to you and didn’t go around you. They easily could have; it would have been less risky and more comfortable. Let them know that you appreciate this growth opportunity that they have given you.
- Seek more feedback. Chances are that others also have opinions about the matter at hand. Seek out people whose opinion you trust and try to gauge the broader truth. Just how widespread is this concern?
- Do something. This may be the hardest part. No one likes to change, especially if we already have a plan in place and are well along in its execution. Seek to identify, alone or with a trusted confidant or coach, a set of actions that can help you grow as a lead. Then make sure to get back with the concerned party about what you have decided so that they feel validated and also do not add more grist to the mill.
We all want to hear that we’re doing well. Feedback is the breakfast of champions and positive comments can really put wind behind our sails. But no one wants to be an emperor without clothes, or, worse yet, a dethroned emperor. Whether the feedback that you receive was solicited or not, be sure to make good use of it, so that you can lead an inspired and engaged team forward.
Naphtali Hoff (@impactfulcoach) served as an educator and school administrator for over 15 years before becoming an executive coach and consultant. Read his blog at impactfulcoaching.com/blog.