5 Ways to Evaluate Your Openness to Feedback


Feedback is good. Without it, how do I improve?

“So, all I have to do, Beth, is push this button to evaluate you?” I asked incredulously.

“Yep. That’s right,” said Beth, an outstanding Colorado State government team member. Smiling, she handed me new license plates for a car we’d just bought.

My first thought as I pressed the EXCELLENT button: Glad my wife doesn’t have one of these for me at home!

My next thought:

This is exactly as it should be.

Feedback is good. Without it, how do I improve? How else can one become outstanding?

In The Beginning …

When I began speaking professionally in 1995, I had a bit of raw talent, tons of energy, and too many ideas. By 1997, when my buddy, author of “Raise Your Inner Game,” David Levin, came to see me speak in downtown Minneapolis to a crowd of 1,500, well—he felt the need to call me the next day.

He had … feedback.

Though I was on Cloud Nine—my co-speaker the night before had been the famous former Notre Dame football coach, Lou Holtz—David had this to say: “You know, I can take you higher.”

Wha … ?!? How can you do that, Dave? Come on, man—I’ve arrived!” ?

He responded calmly, “You just need some feedback.”

He was right. I did. Who doesn’t?

Service providers, musicians, the NFL, employees, bosses, spouses, children, church pastors, volunteers—who can’t learn, grow, and change through feedback?

Feedback Rejection

I recently posted thoughts on LinkedIn about the largest coffeehouse chain in the world. I shared some feedback one of their baristas had given me related to a clearly under-trained Denver store manager’s behaviors and actions. I didn’t name any individual; it was not personal.

The next day a district manager with this mega-firm from California confronted me publicly on LinkedIn, accusing me of not living the QBQ!


I guess since the QBQ! book/message is all about working to change self by practicing personal accountability, she felt I was out of line. I was not “practicing what I preach.” She then “unfriended” me on that social media platform. Bottom line, she was none too happy with my comments.

When I shared this with my wife, Karen, a much more others-centered human being than I, her first remark was, “Wouldn’t the company want this type of feedback? Shouldn’t that DM be asking you for the store location so the local DM can do some coaching of this store manager?”

Wisdom by Karen. Feedback, the only way to be outstanding.

5 Feedback Questions

1. How good am I at soliciting, hearing, and applying feedback?

2. How openminded to feedback is my organization’s leadership?

3. When feedback is received, how should I respond to the sender?

4. What are the dangers of ignoring feedback?

5. What percentage of customers give us feedback versus walking away, never to do business with us again?

Feedback is like the fingers and hands of the potter, while we are the clay. It’s really the only way through which we are shaped in life.

But let’s get into a discussion. Re-read our 5 questions above and choose one. Then share your thoughts!

Lastly, I am open to feedback on this blog! ?

Comment away!


19 Responses

  1. Each time we receive feedback, we are granted with an opportunity of choice. We can choose to apply the feedback, value it and move forward in our journey. Or we can choose to ignore it and impassively choose to stay sedentary where we are. I’d like to say I always choose to grow, but I don’t. Feedback isn’t always easy to hear, sometimes even harder to apply. But if we trust that our peers value us and our growth, we can make the best choice.

  2. Being open-minded to Feedback is sometimes the hardest part. Many people aren’t open to the critiques and take any negative comment personally. But feedback is important. Its the only way we will know where improvements can be made. No matter how hard the topic, feedback is necessary.

  3. I think this a way great way for associates to become engaged when they have the opportunity to hear feedback or give feedback. If we can feel like our opinions matter or that we can hear others it makes the whole company a better place to work as long as the feedback is going to be for a positive reason.

  4. I love Q#3 – what should be the response? Assume positive intent from the person from whom you’re receiving feedback and reply always with “thank you”. Their feedback was a gift to you – and like any gift it can be cherished, used for a while – as long as you need it, re-gifted to others, or sometimes discarded.

  5. I would like to comment on #4. the dangers of not listening to feedback.

    A new ice cream parlor opened in my town, and right beneath the counter was a raised step that extended about 8″ from the base of the platform, so that when you walked up to the counter, you would run your foot into it if you didn’t glance down and notice it. The projection was the same color as the floor. The first time I went there, I badly stubbed my toe/foot on that projection…bad enough to give a little yelp. I contacted the manager and told him what happened and suggested that he put glow tape around the edges of the projection so that people would notice it. He then told me a few others and had a similar experience, and he promptly took my suggestion and applied the tape. There are just enough sue-happy people out there that one of those patrons who might have later stubbed and tripped just might have taken action. The solution probably cost him $2 max, but it has saved a lot of toes… He still mentions it when I got in for a treat.

  6. Q1: How good am I at soliciting, hearing, and applying feedback?

    Good question. I know that I am not always as good as I could be. And that is good news too because it helps me hold myself to account for my reaction and choice.

    As already commented, really hearing feedback can be the tough bit. I believe that we have inherent biases based on:
    * WHAT is being offered – do I think it is fair? justified? true?
    * HOW it is offered – 1 to 1? calmly? we’re in business. In public, emotionally? I may question your intent.
    * WHO is offering it – what do I think their intent is? are they trying to change something that I do not want to change? Tricky if relationship is manager to employee: what does rejecting the feedback mean for my job? For me it meant a conscious decision to not compromise my personal values and move to something different.

    I have to confess. At heart, I am a Maximiser which means I see opportunity for improvement and want to offer feedback A LOT! I have learnt that a simple question: “may I offer you some feedback?” is the best way to gauge how receptive someone might be. Framing comments in a format of “three stars and a wish” works well with my pre-teen daughter and using the phrase “next time, think about…”

    We’re living in a time where everyone asks for feedback. The trick is to really hear it and then act on it.

    Thank you, as always, for thought provoking insights!

  7. Regarding your feedback to the coffee chain about one of their managers, I’m guessing (but I have no way of knowing) that the offense wasn’t taken because of the nature or content of the feedback. Rather, it was that you made it by posting on LinkedIn. Unless there’s a privacy setting that allows that feedback to be seen only by the company, that may be the issue. Some people take criticism, constructive or otherwise, personally all the time. Others never, and some if it is being made in a public setting. I try first to provide feedback to someone at a company by emailing someone or using a “contact us” page on their web site. Just my 2 cents. Good, thought provoking discussion as always. Thank you!

    1. Thanks, Ed. My LinkedIn post was in the context of my core belief that employers are not doing enough to train people managers. If you can make coffee, you get promoted … with no good training. I sold and implemented management training from 1986-1995 – and nothing’s changed. The need is HUGE! 🙂 Be well!

  8. Isn’t feedback how we grow and improve? I certainly know it is for me. Even negative feedback, or that presented in a less constructive way, gives me the opportunity to reflect on what the core of the message really is and see what I can do better!

  9. The dangers of ignoring feedback stands out the most for me in my role professionally. I work in an Assisted Living Community and feedback is something we get all the time. It can come from employees, residents, family members or guests. We forget that people bring things to our attention for a reason. They truly feel its important, need clarification or resolution as as a need to be heard. Sometimes when you get repetitive feedback you can dismiss it. Its so important to continue to ask yourself better questions and continue to take personal accountability for the feedback you are given, no matter who it is from, how frequent you get it and what it’s all about.

  10. Tremendous questions and then the application that follows. I would like to suggest this: Hear the message not the tone.

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