Developing Leaders through Feedback

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Keira Rossman
  • 47th Flying Training Wing Public Affairs

When it comes to the Air Force, it's not just about fancy planes or high-tech gadgets. At the heart of this elite fighting force are the core values of integrity, service, and excellence. However, how do we live up to these values and ensure that our people constantly grow and improve? The answer lies in developing our leaders and creating a culture of feedback. 

Recently, Col. Kevin Davidson, 47th Flying Training Wing commander, hosted a discussion-based professional development opportunity with Laughlin Air Force Base commanders about the book "Thanks for the Feedback" by Douglas Stone and Sheila Heen. Rather than a lecture or presentation, the aim was to create an interactive forum detailing the importance of developing leaders who give and receive feedback effectively. 

"First and foremost, developing leaders who give, receive, and understand feedback is not just a nice-to-have skill," said Col. Kevin Davidson, 47th Flying Training Wing commander, "it's essential to our ability to communicate openly and honestly with one another and to be a better version of yourself as a commander." 

In "Thanks for the Feedback," the authors explain that receiving feedback poses a difficult situation for an individual because it could feel like a personal attack. However, feedback is essential for personal and professional growth and advancement. Leaders who receive input with an open mind and use it to improve their skills and performance are more effective and successful. 

Similarly, leaders who give feedback constructively and helpfully are also essential. Providing feedback in a way that is clear, specific, and actionable help individuals identify areas for self-improvement and work to address them. 

Davidson emphasized that evolving these skills requires deliberate practice and attention. Leaders must be willing to acknowledge their shortcomings and seek feedback from others, even when it may be uncomfortable. Additionally, they must be able to provide feedback to those following them in a helpful and constructive way rather than discourteously. 

Leaders in the discussion were given a chance to share their perspectives on the material and how its concepts apply to their positions within the Air Force. 

“I have learned that your observed actions ultimately create perceptions, good or bad,” said Lt. Col. Paul Henri, commander of the 47th Communications Squadron. “I thought that was brilliant because I am going to get feedback from someone even if I disagree with what they perceived, I can analyze that situation and ask the question, ‘what actions did I take for them to have that perception?’” 

Cultivating leaders who give and receive feedback effectively is critical for the success of any organization, including the Air Force. Leaders need to be able to provide guidance, mentorship, and support to their subordinates. However, to do so, they must be able to receive feedback on their performance and use it to improve. 

Ultimately, leaders who give and receive feedback are essential for any organization’s success. Leaders equipped to meet the challenges of today's ever-changing world will ultimately cultivate a culture of guidance and growth to continuously improve the world's greatest Air Force.