This post originally appeared on the Sklar Wilton & Associates blog.
For some people, feedback is an extremely valuable gift to be sought after and treasured.
For others, it’s a dreaded piece of torture that reminds them how terrible they are at everything in life.
Feedback is an essential component not only at Sklar Wilton, but also in the larger business world, one that is valued by high performing leadership teams, and one that helps every employee learn and grow and be better at the things they love. Well delivered and well received feedback can promote a positive workplace culture, build stronger relationships among employees, and contribute to growth.
So what is someone to do if anticipating and receiving a gift of feedback feels like torture? Here are a few tips.
Remember that there is more to your life than your weaknesses. You are also the dad wearing a tutu in the grocery store because your son wanted someone to join him, the mom who shovels the snow from the walkway for your elderly neighbour, the friend picking up mail for a colleague who is away visiting their aging mom in the hospital. You are a multi-faceted person succeeding in over-lapping areas of life from work to school to volunteer activities and leisure time. A weakness or two in one area of your life does not translate to weaknesses in all areas of your life.
Remember that it is impossible for anyone to perform at peak, all day, every day, while carrying around the emotional baggage that all of us do. We all worry about our kids, our aging parents, our health, the bills we need to pay, and so much more. We are not robots programmed with artificial intelligence to input and output based on perfectly programmed algorithms. By design, humans have weaknesses and are not perfect. We get tired, bored, annoyed, over-excited, over-worked, and stressed and that can only impact our work.
Remember that your successes are far greater than your weaknesses, as small or large as you’ve imagined them to be. Your failures might threaten your self-image and your identity. They might take centre stage with giant billboards in your brain. But your successes at work, both large and small, are certainly far more numerous than your weaknesses. Make the effort to remember all the great things you’ve accomplished at work over the last month, year, and decade, and how awesome they really were.
Remember that feedback is someone else’s perception. Sometimes, the feedback will be 100% valid and completely unknown to you. It could give you reason to improve specific behaviours you never realized needed improving, and jump-start you onto an even better future. And sometimes, though the feedback might not reflect your reality, it does reflect the other person’s reality, their perceptions. In such cases, you will need to recognize that someone’s unique experience with you is valid and deserves to be appreciated. In either case, feedback is a gift that will help you adjust your behaviours for the better, whether that means changing the behaviour itself or doing a better job of managing expectations and perceptions related to those behaviours.
When you do find yourself on the receiving end of the gift of feedback, be sure to ask your gift giver for specific, current examples. Examples from the far past or from one-time events probably can’t be acted on now. But examples from ongoing tasks present multiple opportunities for you to learn and implement real change. Be prepared to take full advantage!
Be open to hearing suggestions you’ve already thought of and discarded. If someone who has taken the time to offer you the gift of feedback has specific suggestions, it’s worthwhile to reconsider them. Find out more specifically what they’re referring to and see if they have more specific ideas of how those ideas could work.
Be aware of your words and your body language. Receiving feedback might be difficult for you, but it might also be difficult for the person offering it. Focus on listening and encouraging rather than defending and rejecting. Make sure your body language demonstrates that you are open and positive about the feedback even when you’re struggling to feel good about the words you’re hearing.
Finally, remember that feedback really is a gift. It means that someone cares enough about you to want to help you learn, grow, and become more successful. Accept it with many thanks.
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This post was written in my role as a consultant for Sklar Wilton & Associates. SW&A has worked for more than 30 years with some of Canada’s most iconic brands to help them grow their brand, shape corporate culture, build successful innovation, define portfolio strategies, and maximize research ROI. They offer strategic advice, business facilitation, research management, qualitative/quantitative research, and analytics. SW&A was recognized as a Great Workplace for Women in 2018, and the Best Workplace in Canada for Small Companies in 2017 by the Great Place To Work® Institute. Inquire about their services here.