A Leader’s Digestion; The 5 Keys to Digesting Feedback Like a Leader!

In a Leadership Position… you, I, we are used to providing feedback, sharing our opinions, and helping others fine-tune their thoughts, ideas, and plans. I hope you can remember a time when you were the one receiving feedback, soaking up mentorship, and benefiting from coaching! The truth is, the longer you lead, the more difficult it can become to accept feedback from bosses, leadership peers, coworkers, and Front-Line Employees… and believe me… it will be even more difficult when the feedback is unsolicited!

Many years ago, when I started out as a Mental Health Therapist, I remember closing a group therapy session. My boss sat in and later shared I did a wonderful job, but failed to wrap-up the session effectively. He gave me some tips and it proved to not only be true, but something I still use to this day when I’m on stages and completing Trainings for companies. My last job as an employee was in Sales and every day, I watched my coworker give unsolicited feedback to Supervisors in our Morning Meetings with a condescending tone… and although he was right, he wondered why he could never get promoted. If you’re on social media, I’m sure someone has shared their opinion with you… I know I’ve received sharp feedback about my Leadership Videos… the music is too loud, or the videos are too long, or too short! Lastly and on a personal note, one day I asked my oldest son (when he was in high school) what I could do better as a Dad. He told me the best thing I could do was to “Back Off”. I was not ready to hear that, but I asked!

My point is, as a Leader, some of the feedback will be solicited… Great! Some will be unsolicited… GREAT! Some feedback will be form your favorite coworker, boss, client/customer… GREAT! Sometimes, it’ll come from your resident Grouch… GREAT! A Leader’s Digestion means ALL feedback is GREAT feedback, it’s how you consume it and digest it that makes you a Leader; enhancing not only your Leadership & Work/Life Harmony, but also that of those you’re Leading!

Appreciate Feedback!

This may be hard to read again, but all feedback is good feedback! At the bare minimum, at least their feedback means they car enough to say something! As Leaders, we really need to worry when silence is the only thing you hear; when apathy takes over, employees could care less, they’re there to simply make it through the day, and collect a check. Think about a marriage; as long as two people are expressing thoughts, concerns, their needs, and wants… they may not be doing it the best way possible, but if their still communicating… they still care. It’s when one or both become silent that one or both have given up and they’ve resided to go through the motions… and that’s dangerous! In sports, I’ll never forget my college coach. He was riding me hard going into my senior year and I got so tired of him yelling my name. Long story short, I went to him to ask what the problem was and he stated, “The day I stop yelling at you is the day you need to worry!”. Message received!

Therefore, appreciate feedback… no matter where it’s coming from or how it’s provided. We can always… and will… go back to how we prefer to receive it and what’s out of bounds, but accept and consume the message and the lesson first!

As a Leader, you’ll receive solicited feedback to digest from employee surveys, customer reviews, while engaging in your 1-on-1 Meetings, and many more instances. You will receive unsolicited feedback to digest while walking down the hall, on your virtual calls, in meetings, attending your Team Happy-Hour, or as I mentioned in the stories I shared… from your resident Grouch. My rule is two-fold… if you’re Leader enough to ask, you must be Leader enough to listen! Sometimes, you’ll hear what you want to hear and how you want to hear it. Other times, the diamond may be wrapped in coal and it’s your job to lead through it to harvest it. We’ll get to how to do that shortly!

My second digestion rule is… All feedback is good feedback, it depends on what you do with it! If you bite the head off everyone that gives you feedback; pretty soon no one will give feedback and that’s not Leadership; that’s a dictatorship and silence kills evolution…  Be Mindful!

Right About?

The second Key to A Leader’s Digestion is short, sweet, and powerful! It’s a simple question that removes “Who” and “Why” and let’s you focus on “What”. When we let ourselves get caught up in the “Who” gave the feedback, you can dismiss a great point because you don’t like them, think they don’t like you, they always complain, etc. When we get caught up in “Why”, you can come up with real or imagined scenarios of why this person/people said such a thing and get swept away in conspiracy theories; missing great and real points… Be Mindful!

When you ask yourself, “What are they right about?”, this sticks to the issue or problem at hand. Let’s take my examples from earlier. My Boss sat in my session and shared advice for me afterward… what was he right about? I didn’t close the session the most effective way and people tend to remember the last thing they heard or discussed and not the entire session. Therefore, wrapping the session up with reminders and asking about their biggest takeaway was creating a better experience for those in attendance, improving my craft, and enhancing my professional reputation!

Me being “Intense” with a more sensitive and nurturing staff, wasn’t the best way to better connect and lead. The person who commented on social media the music in my video was too loud, or the videos were too long, or short… What were they right about? Some people liked the music in the background, others didn’t. Therefore, I began mixing it up… altering music, my Training Videos only have music at the beginning and end; not in the middle, and the social media videos are now posted one nugget at a time… not all together packaged nice and neatly as in my Online Training Program for organizations. I could go on, but you get the point! It doesn’t matter what is said or how it’s said initially… we can and will come back to that. First thing’s first, appreciate the fact that someone cares enough to say something and ask yourself, “What are they right about?”.

Apply or Don’t!

The next key after evaluating what the person may have been right about is whether to apply the adjustment or not. Just because you received feedback doesn’t mean you have to make any changes! Perhaps the person’s feedback is right and makes sense, you agree… AND… you have control to do something about it? By all means, go ahead! What if the person is right, their feedback makes sense, but you have little control and the train has left the station? What if they have a point, but you like how things are and changing anything at this point will require too many moving parts and they’re more important things on deck at the moment? Perhaps the person has a point, but doesn’t sit in your seat, read your emails, and doesn’t fully understand the behind-the-scenes workings of making proposed changes?


Follow-Through is everything! Are you willing and capable of following-through on an idea that isn’t yours? Too many times, a Leader will receive feedback and:

  • Listen to feedback and do nothing about it due to being “Busy”
  • Listen to feedback and take credit for the idea
  • Listen to feedback and judge whether it’s good or not based on their limited view of thinking, lack of creativity, protecting their position, or professional preservation – not wanting to risk their status with an idea that’s not theirs and they don’t fully believe in or understand.

Follow-Through is an important and necessary part of Digesting Feedback… When feedback “makes sense” and you can… Follow-Through and Give Credit! When feedback “makes sense” and you cannot … Explain! When feedback doesn’t make sense (financially, across departments, sales-wise, etc.)… explain! Let’s briefly go deeper:

  • “Makes Sense” = You understand the feedback… agree or not, like it or not, you understand it and see the value in the feedback. Therefore, either share the idea; being sure to give credit and introduce. Or, schedule a meeting to be the go-between to help introduce the provider of the feedback to a Decision-Maker within the organization.
  • “Doesn’t Make Sense” = Either you need and will request further information to understand the feedback more clearly. Or, you firmly understand the feedback, but the idea struggles to fit into the current logistics of the IT system, process of things, finances, into current partnerships the organization has at the moment, etc. Therefore, share current obstacles and ask if they can morph their idea to fit better and/or help them with the idea.

Share Your Blueprint!

The final key is for unsolicited feedback. There will inevitably come a time when someone will share their conflicting thought, idea, or feedback at precisely the wrong time for you! I mentioned my coworker that did it at every team meeting. Yes, as a Leader, you want to create a safe place where your People can share. However, there’s a difference between sharing and trying to show someone up, show-off, and disrupt. The first few times it occurs is their fault… every time after, it is yours!

Therefore, when unsolicited advice is continuous and given in a negative manner:

  1. Thank the person for sharing and caring enough to provide feedback
  2. When you agree and can do something about it; share the possibility and schedule to revisit it with them 1-on-1 or with the Team; as there may not be enough time to go further on this topic due to what’s on the agenda to be covered.
  3. When feedback is not likely to grow wings and fly, explain the obstacles, encourage them to fit their idea inside the new box, schedule a set time to revisit, and best ways to effectively get the idea started with you or moved up the chain
  4. When you don’t agree or understand the feedback; schedule a set time to discuss it or plan for it in your scheduled 1-on-1
  5. In either case, how do YOU prefer to hear feedback and ideas in Team Meetings, 1-on-1’s, email, slack, etc.? How do you prefer the person start? What information would you like them to share with you? Share your Feeback Blueprint with them; enhancing your ability to digest their feeback and lead from a less emotional state.

 My Team knows, all they have to say is, “I have an idea I think will help with ______. I’d like to know what you like about it and if there’s anything you’d fine-tune or change.”. BOOM… whether we go with the feedback or not, they have my full attention. It’s my job to my “Yes’s” powerful and my “No’s” meaningful… either giving them the power and authority to make things happen or the reason why it’s not best to move forward right now or in that way!

You now know the 5 Keys of a Leader’s Digestion. What was your Biggest Takeaway and what will you begin doing NOW?

“If you bite the head off everyone that gives you feedback; pretty soon no one will give feedback and that’s not Leadership; that’s a dictatorship and silence kills evolution…  Be Mindful!” – Andre Young

Written by: Andre Young

Looking to impact your Organization, Leaders, Teams, and Employees with a Leadership & Work/Life Harmony Training or Speaker? Click www.youevolvingnow.com to connect, chat, and customize with Andre Young!

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