How to Make Looking Bad Look Good

The path to remarkable is paved with feedback.

Feedback, received well, transforms leaders. However, the behavior leaders fail at most is seeking feedback. 

Feedback that hurts the most often helps the most. 

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Getting the most from negative feedback:

The value of negative feedback is maximized in environments where looking bad is good.

Mediocre leaders diminish the opportunity of feedback when they try to make themselves look good by posturing, minimizing poor performance, excuse-making, or hiding mistakes.

Be willing to look bad in your pursuit of excellence.

How to make looking bad look good:

Powerful feedback requires transparency, vulnerability, and honesty in recipients. Here are five ways to help others open up to negative feedback.

  1. Provide abundant positive feedback. Bad is stronger than good. Negative feedback has positive impact where there’s abundant honor, reward, and recognition.
  2. Let positive feedback stand on its own. Don’t use positives to soften the blow of negatives. See the good, say the good. Honor effort, energy, skill, and character more than results. You get what you honor.
  3. Be vulnerable by sharing your own frailties, shortcomings, struggles, and failures. Don’t share for sympathy. Share your struggles to affirm that growth is a journey not a destination.
  4. Normalize failure. You aren’t reaching high enough if you always succeed.
    1. Honor aspiration.
    2. Celebrate progress.
    3. Learn from failure. What are you learning? What will you do differently next time.
    4. Let go past failure. Forgiveness is permission to try again.
  5. Recognize teammates who fail, learn, get up, and move forward.

Not good:

  1. Failure due to apathy or lack of effort.
  2. Repeated failure in the same way.
  3. Giving up.

Confront, don’t celebrate, useless failure.

Successful leaders create environments where it’s safe to not look good in the pursuit of excellence.

How might leaders create environments where negative feedback yields positive results?

Thanks to leaders at All4 Inc. for inspiring this post.