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Can You Handle the Truth?

One trait of effective leadership is the ability to accept criticism.

Rather than fear constructive feedback, the best leaders actively encourage others to identify blindspots and pinpoint deficiencies.

Unfortunately, most leaders struggle with criticism. Rather than listen with an open mind, most leaders shut down and disregard the feedback. Making matters worse, many leaders hold grudges against employees who deliver critical feedback, ruining relationships as a result.

Consider the leaders you work for: Would you feel comfortable sharing critical feedback?

Sadly, very few leaders create an environment where employees feel empowered to share authentic, constructive feedback with supervisors.


How can leaders encourage employees to share constructive feedback? Here are six ideas to consider:

Encourage Feedback: Whenever possible, leaders must tell direct reports they are open to constructive criticism. “The only way I can get better is to understand my blindspots,” I often tell employees. Leaders who admit they don't know everything and want critical feedback build trust with followers.

Bite Your Tongue: A fight or flight response is common when we are criticized. But rather than argue, leaders must pay close attention to what is being said. People who get defensive effectively kill any chance of getting feedback from that person in the future. In short, never criticize the criticism.

Express Gratitude: Regardless of how bad it hurts, leaders should experss gratitude for feedback. One of my favorite lines to use is, “I appreciate you having the courage to share your perspective.” Even if I don’t necessarily agree with the feedback ... I always acknowledge the employee's point of view.

Don’t Dwell: In the past, negative feedback would put me in a bad mood for days. I've now rewired my brain to view every piece of critical feedback as a blessing in disguise. Assuming your job isn't in danger ... accurate criticism should be viewed as the best feedback you can receive.

Follow-Up: After some time has passed, look for opportunities to tell people how their critical feedback has made a difference. Not only will this build a strong relationship with that individual, you also increase the likelihood of that employee being open to future coaching.


Kelly Clarkson once said, “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.”

The next time you recieve critical feedback, don't freak out.

Instead, embrace the feedback ... and thank the employee for having the courage to speak.


If you liked this article, you'll love my two books:



1 Comment

Beth Fredrickson
Beth Fredrickson
Mar 27, 2023

Jared, this is really fantastic and just what I needed to read this week! Thanks!

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