I wanted to surprise my husband, Joe Ruiz, with an unusual gift a few years ago, so I purchased a Rusty Wallace Racing Experience for him and a friend to share. He was advised to pay attention if his car number was mentioned by the voice in his headset and to follow the directions given. If he did not, a black flag would gesture for him to pull off the track.

Unfortunately, after the first lap, he got the black flag! He had no idea why. He didn’t hear anyone mention his car number, 48. Apparently, the spotter was speaking to him during his entire first lap, cautioning him to slow down because he was taking the corners too quickly. After he understood that the spotter’s words were feedback for him, he had an opportunity to stay in the race. From that point on, he was responsive to the requests the spotter made and was able to enjoy the full experience.

Sometimes we can be like Joe – in the middle of an intense project or experience, our eyes forward, with little peripheral vision and moving at high speeds. We may be receiving feedback and not even be aware that it is intended for us.

I listened to a TEDX talk by Sheila Heen, one of the authors of Difficult Conversations. The topic of her talk: How To Use Others’ Feedback to Learn and Grow.

In her talk, she states that as receivers of feedback, we get to be in charge. “We decide what feedback to let in, we decide what sense we make of it, and we decide whether or not we will choose to change.” She further proposes that if we can draw learning from feedback, get better at receiving developmental feedback, and look for what we can improve, the data shows there are huge rewards:

  • Higher work satisfaction
  • Ability to adapt more quickly in new roles and
  • Higher performance reviews.

Ken Blanchard, author of The One Minute Manager sums it up nicely: “Feedback is the breakfast of champions.” We need to take feedback in, digest it, and consider it. We filter it through our values, goals, and objectives. We determine how we might use it (or not) to make adjustments that will support our success and the success of those around us.

In these past weeks I’ve had the privilege of facilitating several Feedback workshops with companies dedicated to strengthening leadership and increasing self-awareness. During the workshop we brainstorm some of the barriers to receiving feedback (lack of trust, questionable intent, bad timing, etc.). In addition, we spend some time talking about best practices. Here are three key suggestions to support your success:

  • Give permission to others to give you feedback. Ask for it, again and again. This is important for creating a climate where people feel like it’s safe to give feedback. The higher your position, the more you may have to invite feedback. Giving permission communicates to others that you are open and willing to consider their perspective.
  • Assume positive intent. Giving others the benefit of the doubt puts you in a better place to receive the feedback they have to offer. Even if their intent is questionable, they may share something useful for your growth and development. Don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater.
  • Have a learner mindset. Stay calm, listen, and ask questions to better understand how your behaviors impact others. Ask what you could do differently to be more effective. Be curious and appreciative. Thank them for their observations.

When my husband acknowledged the feedback coming to him, considered it, and then chose to adapt his driving speed around the corners, he was able to stay in the race. In doing so, he eventually earned the right to take the speed up a notch, complete the race, and take full advantage of the experience. It was a blast!

How can you use feedback to stay in your race? If you are interested in learning and growing, Sheila Heen suggests that you ask a specific question to receive feedback that is useful. One such question: “What’s one thing you see me doing – or failing to do – that is getting in my way?”




Carla Ruiz

Carla Ruiz

Carla’s mission is to fuel growth and development by affirming strengths, challenging beliefs, and igniting potential through Values Based Leadership. She presents, facilitates, and coaches in a variety of leadership programs and with companies intentional about strengthening their culture. In her role as a Leadership Development Coach, she is passionate about increasing emotional intelligence, which she believes is the cornerstone of effective leadership.

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