At Dulwich College Suzhou our leadership team have been engaged with a series of workshops to develop capability to best deliver excellence for our students. I will be posting a series of articles related to our sessions detailing important leadership skills and traits to support colleagues.
The articles are based around the premise that it is fundamentally the role of leadership to do two things well. Granted these two things have many moving parts and it takes years to be skilled at all of them but basically school leadership requires.
1. That leaders ensure that their team members know what is required of them and are skilled enough to do it.
2. That leaders hold their team members to account to ensure they fulfil what is required of them to the highest standard.
Today, we continue with a focus on how to receive feedback.
Teaching is a profession that has at its very core a deep commitment to the provision of feedback. Assessment and reporting procedures are feedback to students, high quality pedagogy should include feedback loops, yet the profession has developed an inbuilt reluctance, and in many cases quite strong resistance, to give and receive feedback in a professional and constructive manner.
Leaders who embrace feedback and accept it with grace are more likely to improve their practice, gain the trust of their supervisor and be viewed more favourably for future leadership opportunities. Not accepting feedback well is also a risk because if you can’t take constructive criticism in a professional manner then the trust of your supervisor that you will give feedback appropriately will deteriorate.
Feedback from your supervisor should be viewed as an opportunity. It is an opportunity to grow and develop yourself, build trust with, and impress your supervisor, and it is also an opportunity to stifle your career.
Behaviours that demonstrate that you will receive feedback in the manner it is intended include
- Listen intently and show that you understand the feedback and have processed it before responding. To respond immediately without thought about the feedback will present as defensiveness without substance
- Understand that the feedback is the other person’s perception and that their perception is just as valid as yours. It may be different to yours but that doesn’t mean it is not valid
- Ask clarifying questions so that you really do hear what was being said, and not what you think is being said. Ask for clear examples or specific details so you have a clear understanding of the intent of the message
- When it is your turn to speak, summarise what you heard and seek confirmation that what you have summarised was the intent of the message
- Are you perfect? Of course the answer will be no. So when this is pointed out in a professional forum in a reasonable way don’t catastrophise and make a simple request to improve an aspect of practice a bigger deal than what it is
- Thank the provider of the feedback for taking the time to work with you on being the best leader you can be. Use these words “thank you for the feedback”
"Thank you for the feedback"
- If you are angry or upset, firstly ask yourself these important questions “am I upset because of the points raised? Am I upset because I don’t like feedback? Am I angry because of the way it was presented?” Reflecting on your own personality is step one is this process. If you don’t do this, then chances are the feedback was spot on. We all make errors in our practice. To deny this is to suggest that we are perfect. If you reflect and still feel aggrieved, make an appointment to revisit the conversation at a later date when emotions have settled.