5 Ways to Get Helpful Feedback

At a small leadership gathering, I heard Ed Stetzer tell of reaching a milestone birthday and requesting feedback from a few close friends. One thing he discovered was that his friends did not think he was a very good listener. Shocked by this revelation, he told his wife what they said. She looked at him in amazement and said that he must be the only person who did not know this about himself. Feedback helps us see ourselves the way others see us.  

Leadership guru Ken Blanchard says, “Feedback is the breakfast of champions.” Feedback happens when we receive valuable information about ourselves or our job performance. Children receive feedback from their parents — often more than they would prefer. Husbands and wives give and receive feedback from one another, and athletes receive feedback from coaches.  

Developing leaders, including pastors, church staff, associational leaders and Christians of all sorts serving in a variety of ministries need feedback. Good feedback makes us better.  

Feedback helps us discover blind spots, recognize strengths and identify places where we continue messing up. Good feedback may also help us see a clear path to improvement. Every faithful Christian leader wants to improve in their service to Christ and one of the fastest tracks to improvement is by receiving helpful feedback. 

But where can we get it? Most people do not want to say things about us or our work that could hurt our feelings. How can we receive honest and helpful feedback from those who know us best? Here are five ways to get useful feedback. 

1. Ask for it. To get the best feedback, be specific in your request. Don’t just go to your deacons and say, “I need some feedback; how do you think I’m doing?” Most people would not know how to answer that question. Instead, try something like, “I would love to get some feedback from you men. I have been working on using illustrations in my sermons. How do you think that is being received?” I practiced this just recently with a group of leaders who know me well and I received valuable feedback.  

2. Listen without being defensive or dismissive. The fastest way to kill the feedback conversation is to get defensive when a person delivers useful feedback in a way that may seem harsh to you, or to be dismissive when someone tries to point out your strengths. Many of us work hard to do the best job we can do. When the feedback we receive feels like an attack, often our response is to want to defend ourselves. A better approach is to listen to understand, ask clarifying questions if needed, then reflect on what we have heard.  

3. Ask the Lord to help you. God cares far more about our development than we do. Ask the Lord to show you areas of strength and areas of improvement. Jesus gave feedback to His disciples. We all recall when Peter heard Jesus equate his actions with those of Satan. The same Lord Jesus is actively developing us to be godly and effective in our own leadership context. If we ask Him, He will help us.  

4. Talk to a friend. Who is the person you trust with your fears, failures and fumbles? That is a person who loves you enough to tell you the truth and do it in such a way as to not crush you. Be specific in what you are asking for and then listen well when they talk.  

5. Receive it. Don’t just go through a perfunctory exercise where you ask for feedback and then do not do anything about it. If people see that it doesn’t mean anything to you, they will be reluctant to ever provide feedback again. Once you know where you need to make a change, get to work developing a plan to address the issue.  

May the Lord give us the kind of friends and co-workers who will help us see ourselves as we are so that we may become more like Jesus in our efforts to lead others.

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