03/26/2014 11:35 am ET Updated May 26, 2014

It's Feedback Time

Sheila Heen, a leadership coach who focuses on negotiation and decision-making in the workplace, recently co-authored the book "Thanks for the Feedback: The Science and Art of Receiving Feedback Well." Heen spoke about communication between employees and managers with Tom Fox, a guest writer for On Leadership and vice president for leadership and innovation at the nonprofit Partnership for Public Service. Fox also heads up their Center for Government Leadership.

Q. What is the key to providing meaningful feedback to employees?

A. At the end of the day, how leaders receive feedback is actually more important than how they give feedback. Being a skilled giver is great, but the receiver is the one who is in charge of what they let in, what meaning they make of it and how they decide to change. So if you want your team to have high-quality performance conversations, the real leverage is in modeling the skills of seeking out input, working to understand it and wrestling with continuous improvement. That shows your team that regardless of the quality of the feedback, as receivers we should be able to pull something useful out of it. And as we work together to become better receivers, we have richer conversations -- whether we're giving or receiving.