It was one of those moments we have all experienced in some form or at some time in our daily lives. The moment when we realize that our world, that space in which we conduct the veritable business of life, is occupied by others; and those “others” have an opinion on how we are conducting our life’s business. Critical analysis is everywhere and, welcomed or not, it often arrives without a bow of constructive flavor, wrapped in a pretty box of sensitivity or an abundance of concern for our self-esteem. Like it or not most feedback, constructive or not, is rooted in the truth as to how “others” in our world perceives our actions. It is the moment that most of us are shocked into the realization that not everyone in our world sees things as we do. The moment comes just before the surprised, self-discovery that none of us are always right.
When confronted with negative feedback from the boss, coworker, friend or foe, the first response is usually an emotional event punctuated by denial and explained away by rational. Too often our reaction is to push the purveyor away and shun their comments. But allowing the hurt feelings to pass and permitting a period of reflection can lead to an opportunity for learning and growth. While the vast majority of feedback comes from those interested in helping, even the negative and unfounded criticisms can promote understanding as to how others see the world differently from us. “We all need people who give us feedback. That’s how we improve”, says Bill Gates, Founder of Microsoft and technology icon.
When Sheryl Sandberg, formerly from Facebook and Google, was asked, “What’s the number one thing you look for in someone who can scale with a company?” her answer was immediate and to the point. “Someone who takes feedback well. Because people who can take feedback well are people who can learn and grow quickly.” Whether delivered from boss, customer or confidant, it is important that feedback not be dismissed out of hand. Accept it, evaluate it and initiate positive change in response to it. Assume it comes with good intentions and think of it as a time for positive self-reflection and improvement.
“In our line of work, we often find ourselves providing insights and/or feedback to our clients with regards to their business,” comments Julie Gareleck, CEO, Junction Creative Solutions. “If our clients are open to change, they are able to realize growth or take initiative to resolve a problem. If they are not ready for change, we find ourselves on the receiving end of constructive criticism. While a delicate balance, we’ve seen the results of Sandberg’s theory.”