Feedback and Overcoming the Cringe Factor

February 20, 2014 Vince Molinaro

Cringe worthy - blog pic

This past weekend, my family and I participated in what has become an annual ritual – we give each other personal feedback. We have kept it really simple: one thing you appreciate about that person and one thing you would like that person to improve on to make our family stronger.

Some might find this tradition rather weird. l consider it an occupational hazard of my family having a leadership consultant as a husband and father.

It’s something we started a few years back when the Family Day statutory holiday was established.

We’ve taken advantage of this long weekend in February to spend together as a family usually a few nights away with the weekend being capped off with a nice dinner at a restaurant and that’s when the feedback ritual happens.

I can tell you without hesitation, I’ve learned a few lessons about feedback from my family.

When we first started this ritual, all five of us were tentative. This past weekend was no exception. Even though we’ve been doing this for several years now, I still cringe a bit when my family starts giving me feedback. I call it the Cringe Factor. Now you wouldn’t expect that because in my line of work, I get feedback all the time from my team and colleagues. Yet, for some reason, feedback is still sometimes hard to take. Why do we cringe?

First off, feedback makes us feel exposed and vulnerable. It’s also unpredictable. You never know what someone might say.

Second, once the feedback is received there’s an expectation that you are actually going to do something about it. That can be stressful because many of us don’t like being held accountable. As a family, we talk about whether we’ve each improved over the year in the areas that were identified as weaknesses. That can be one of the most difficult parts of the conversation.

Third, we often cringe because these people matter in your life and you don’t want to disappoint them or let them down. Feedback often centres on the ways in which we’ve let people down.

For my family, this exercise has been extremely positive. As I’ve watched my children over the years, I see them learning to graciously accept feedback even when it makes them uncomfortable. That is a life skill that we all need to learn, especially those of us who aspire to be leaders.

Rather than avoiding feedback, leaders need to embrace it. We need to learn how to give it, and how to take it. Here are some ways that you can confront feedback and use it to make you a stronger leader:

  • Even though feedback makes you cringe, you must solicit it. Many leaders I know avoid feedback at all costs. This not only sets a poor example but it limits your ability to grow and develop as a leader.


  • Once you get feedback, do something about it. Show the people you lead that you’ve heard them and are working to improve your leadership skills. They will appreciate you for it.


  • The real leadership skill is the ability to listen and accept feedback. I know from the great leaders I’ve worked with that you can always go to them and share your feedback. They will listen. Maybe not always agree with you, but they will listen nonetheless.

So what’s it going to be for you? Are you going to work on your ability to accept feedback from others? I encourage you to do it, even if it makes you cringe!

Follow me @VinceMolinaro

About the Author

Vince Molinaro

Vince Molinaro is the Global Managing Director of Strategic Solutions at Lee Hecht Harrison. He is also the author of The Leadership Contract – a New York Times and USA Today bestseller. Vince has spent more than 20 years as an adviser to boards and senior executives looking to improve leadership in their organizations.

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