As leaders, we are likely aware of the importance of giving regular feedback. Volumes have been written on the tools and techniques for delivering good feedback. However, even flawlessly delivered feedback is often dismissed. In their book “Thanks for the Feedback: The Science and Art of Receiving Feedback Well”, Douglas Stone and Sheila Heen explore why we all struggle with receiving feedback. One barrier that often comes up in receiving feedback is what Stone and Heen refer to as “wrong-spotting”.
What’s Wrong with Wrong-Spotting?
Receiving feedback is challenging. If we are honest, most feedback can feel like an attack on who we are or what we have accomplished. One way we attempt to counteract these perceived assaults is through wrong-spotting. Wrong-spotting points out the flaws in the delivered information or the messenger. If we can simply discredit the message or the messenger we neutralize the sting of correction.
While wrong-spotting may seem like an effective self-preservation technique, it is likely limiting our ability to grow. Stone and Heen challenge us to stretch beyond our natural wrong-spotting tendencies. Even when there are inaccuracies in the information delivered, ask the question “what could be right in this message?” Even when the person delivering the message lacks credibility, ask the question “could I learn something from even this person?” When we transform our natural response from wrong-spotting to mining for what could be right, we increase our ability to grow.
Receiving feedback can be incredibly difficult for almost anyone. As leaders it is critical that we not only learn to become excellent feedback providers, we must continually strive to become better feedback receivers.
Leaders add value when we resist our natural tendencies of wrong-spotting and strive to mine for what could be right in the feedback we receive.