Tag Archives: failure

What to do when anticipating the gift of feedback makes you feel like a failure

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.

feedbackRemember 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.



Failing Forward by Jeffrey Henning, #AMSRS

Live blogged at #AMSRS 2015 National Conference. Any errors or bad jokes are my own.


  • there is always a tremendous fear of failure, an F on a report card or being called a failure at a business meeting
  • father in law joined an electronics store and sold transistors, started his own business which was successful, wanted to pass business onto his son who refused because his son knew the internet would change everything, so he kept doing things the same way as he always did and his business when bankrupt – he wasn’t willing to risk what he knew worked
  • Bill Gates – success is a lousy teacher, it’s an unreliable guide to the future
  • there are day to day opersonal failures, short term tactical failures, long term strategic failures
  • operational failures – terrible response rates, bad lists, didn’t budget for incentives, twitter sampling leading to spam attacks, skip logic error – testing logic not how people would actually answer the survey 
  • you can prepare a survey checklist of every item that must be checked before a survey goes live [i do this 🙂 ]
  • also consider doing a survey post-partum – what went right or wrong
  • tactical failures – recurring problems – clients couldn’t edit their charts so they had to change the system to accomodate that, though clients may be happy with the end project you might be very unhappy
  • They use a lot of software – excel, hermes, poseidon, fogbugz, questionpro, survey gizmo, decipher, surveymonkey, verint – they have templated checklists for all of these, constantly keep track of things they want to change or improve, learn on what to improve from every project
  • strategic failures – mainly product launches, tried a text analytics product in 1996 way ahead of its time when people didn’t have a lot of text to analyze, last three products failed but led to success of  their last product a survey product
  • He coined the term Enterprise Feedback Management. [how cool is that!]
  • you can’t coast on one success
  • pretend before you spend – pretotyping
  • The Palm Pilot was planned as the inventor carried a block of wood from meeting to meeting pretending to use it as he would use a real product
  • what is the smallest product you can build that will be viable – check out StatWing, very limited SPSS type of product
  • don’t build the pieces of the product – build a skateboard, a bike, and then a car
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