I’ve said in the past that one of the greatest gifts a leader can give to team members is the gift of honest feedback. Taking the time to provide a quick word of encouragement or constructive criticism can go a long way toward showing employees that they are noticed and valued; that you are invested in their future and their place on the team.

But there is a flipside to this, as well: A hallmark of leadership is that you don’t just offer feedback, but also welcome it in your own professional life. Great leaders actively court feedback from colleagues and from employees—and don’t get their feathers ruffled when the feedback is less than positive.

Receiving the Gift of Feedback

It’s a simple fact of life: None of us like having our shortcomings pointed out to us, yet other people can often identify our faults more accurately than we can. When you’re willing to graciously accept that kind of feedback—not bristling or getting defensive, but actually engaging with it and implementing some changes—it shows that you’re a humble leader. It shows that what you care about is seeing all members of your team improve their performance and get better results over time.

When your team members come to you with feedback, then, it’s important to accept and even embrace it—not brush it aside. Some tips for taking constructive feedback well include:

  • Don’t take it personally. Remember that everyone has blind spots and skills that need further developing. The fact that you have some areas to work on does not mean you’re a bad person, and that’s surely not what your team members want you to think. The goal is for you to get better, and your team members are just trying to help you—not insult you!
  • Specificity is always a good thing. “You’re not a good communicator” is not great feedback; if your team members approach you with something like that, ask them for something more specific. That shows that you really want to improve, and it gives you measurable goals to work toward.
  • Don’t be afraid to ask for help! If your team members identify problem areas, maybe they can also help you brainstorm some solutions.
  • Be grateful. Say thank you for the feedback—remembering that, for your employees, it’s probably really hard to approach their boss or manager with words of constructive criticism!
  • Offer to return the favor and do an employee appraisal for anyone who comes to you with feedback—not in a tit-for-tat manner, but in the interest of making everyone on the team even better!

Remember: Feedback is a gift. Give it—but also open yourself to receiving it!