The ManKind Project is a feedback-rich environment. That’s a great thing.

Personally, I receive feedback from mentors and mentees, community members, leader training participants, and hot seats to name just a few. And I give feedback to most of these people too.

It’s really tough. Yet, there is no better way to learn about myself. And I resist.

I received this feedback from the participants on a recent ManKind Project leadership training:

  • Offer more stories and analogies from his personal life.
  • I would like to hear your shadows, or at least know they are in front of you
  • He seemed to have a little trouble remembering participants’ names. A small thing, but I noticed it.

I want to defend myself – argue and refute. Offer counterpoints of when I did it “right.” Because, I like you, want to be loved, accepted, and respected just the way I am. I know that feedback is critical if I am going to see my impacts, learn, and improve.

“Interesting, When we give feedback, we notice that the receiver isn’t good at receiving it. When we receive feedback, we notice that the giver isn’t good at receiving it.” – Thanks For the Feedback

What Counts As Feedback?

Feedback can broadly be defined as information you get about yourself. Through our experiences and interactions with other people, feedback is how we learn about ourselves.

Opportunities to learn about the impact we’re having on those around us comes in many forms – from performance reviews at work, comments from a partner, interactions with children, customer comments, as well as many informal sources. It can be written, verbal, or non-verbal. The gain or loss of friends or customers counts as feedback too.

Feedback is everywhere if we choose to be awake to it.

Purpose of Feedback

In Thanks For the Feedback by Douglas Stone and Sheila Heen, who also wrote the New York Times Bestseller Difficult Conversations, identify three types of feedback. Each serves a purpose and has its own challenges.

  1. Appreciation
  2. Coaching
  3. Evaluation

Appreciation – Being seen, appreciated, and acknowledged can come in the form of a ‘thank you,’ gratitude or a compliment. We never outgrow our need to know that we matter.

Coaching – Feedback that is intended to help you grow, learn, or change. Coaching feedback can arise from two needs. The need to improve in knowledge or skill. Or the giver may be responding to their own emotional need for you to change your behavior or priorities.

Evaluation – An assessment of how you are doing. Whether it’s a formal performance review, a positive or negative comment, and even what others call you when you’re not around reflects their evaluation of you.


The decidedly unsexy word that Stone and Sheen use to describe the primary challenge in feedback conversations when communication fails because either the receiver of the feedback wanted a different type of feedback that what was given or the giver said one thing, but the receiver heard something else.

When I shared at the beginning, that at times I want to defend myself – argue and refute feedback it’s most often that I wished to hear appreciation and was getting an evaluation. Other times coaching sounds like evaluation.

I’m sure you can think of similar examples from your own feedback experiences.

Better Feedback Conversations

Feedback goes better for both receiver and giver when:

  • We know the purpose of the feedback.
  • We’re explicit about our needs and intentions.
  • We separate evaluation from coaching and appreciation.

Leaders Cultivate a Growth Mindset

You may be familiar with the terms fixed and growth mindset which were coined, Dr. Carol Dweck. They apply to leaders too.

Feedback can feel like an attack on our identity if we see our leadership from a fixed mindset perspective. In Thanks for the Feedback, the terms used are brittle and robust.

As leaders, we are more likely to grow from feedback when we:

  • See ourselves as complex, evolving, works-in-progress.
  • Stop trying to be perfect.
  • Recognize our shadows, gold, and self-interest.
  • Admit we contribute to every problem and success.

Finally, the authors of Thanks for the Feedback offer us three practices:

  1. Hear coaching as coaching and find the coaching in an evaluation.
  2. When evaluated, separate the judgment from assessment and consequences.
  3. After every negative or unfavorable evaluation, give yourself a score on how well you handled the feedback.

In my life one of the most effective places for me to get feedback and grow as a leader has been in ManKind Project Men’s Circles.

We’ve launched the Men’s Work an online circle designed for the men starting out on their personal growth journey. It’s a course for men to take a first step into something unknown – a men’s group. In just three short weeks we’ll give you a solid foundation for moving ahead in your life, and you won’t be going alone.

Go Answer the Call