The other side of the stick: How to receive feedback

“Do you think a person can get too much feedback?” – He had come up to me during drinks after a THNK evening session, on one of those nights where there seems to be no barriers to the topic of conservation. He was one of our younger participants, certainly a few years under the average age of 38. What he asked got me thinking. It was also quite touching, especially because of the earnestness with which he asked the question.

Small group work dominates at THNK and group-members are asked to give each other feedback regularly. This is a multi-edged sword: it can enhance observation and communication skills, help people gain insights into the effect of their behavioral choices on others, and help them become aware of unconscious behavior. However, even a multi-edged sword is a sword. Its blade can cut into things. And this young man shared with me that it had cut into his confidence as a leader. What was he to do? Should he stop listening to feedback?

The role of feedback in creative leadership is well-established: we need to know how we are performing, both in terms of content and in how we lead our team. Creative leadership constantly seeks out and integrates feedback. We train people in the art of giving feedback, but is there enough focus on how to receive it? Can creative leadership mean not listening to feedback from time to time? How could you receive feedback in such a way that you benefit from it and don’t feel cut down by it?

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Need for creative leadership

There is a need for creative leadership that is capable of dancing with complexity and ambiguity. This need is driven by 3 factors: The world is changing, business is changing, people are changing.

Creative leadership is the ability to create and realize innovative solutions especially in the face of structurally complex or changing situations. It refers to those people who when all is shifting, and new approaches are yet unknown, can still create clarity of purpose for their teams. These are leaders who seek to navigate – and even benefit from – the unpredictability around them. Not just for the organization or themselves, but usually also for society at large and the ecology of the planet….

Article written for THNK with Mark Vernooij: