To grow and achieve happiness in our careers, we need to embrace feedback for the gift it is. And here is why feedback is the best career gift. It often clarifies expectations of what our managers or others want us to do or accomplish. It is a learning opportunity and strengthens our confidence or belief in our abilities.
But one of the most significant benefits is that it allows us to see ourselves differently by revealing how others interpret our behaviors. If we learn our coworkers’ perceptions of us are different than we intend, we can make changes so they positively view our actions.
Here is an example of a possible behavior misinterpretation. Goal-oriented individuals will do anything to ensure they achieve what they set out to do. They are motivated by achievements. Their colleagues might interpret this behavior as only caring about their own success, being unwilling to compromise, uncaring, or difficult to work with. Without feedback, these individuals will never know how they are perceived and can’t make changes to eliminate this misinterpretation.
Okay, to address the elephant in the room — fear of feedback. Hearing we could do a better job in some areas can be disappointing. After acknowledging this feeling, we need to focus on the growth opportunity feedback provides.
Think back to a time when you wanted to learn how to do something new. Maybe it was arranging flowers, playing a sport, tending bees, playing an instrument, or cooking a new cuisine. Learning to master the skills took was a trial and error process. We needed to attempt to do it, whatever it was. Get feedback or analyze what we could do better and then try again. No one can master these new skills in one attempt. The same is true for work. We don’t enter or navigate our work-life as a master of everything. We need to learn and develop to elevate our performance.
To fully benefit, we need to receive feedback gracefully.
We can all become defensive when hearing feedback different from what we expect. But to benefit from feedback, we must listen with an open mind.
To do that, we need to be mindful of our feelings. If you feel yourself becoming defensive when hearing feedback, attempt to take a breath. This pause will allow you to reflect on what you are hearing without reacting emotionally. We become defensive because we feel threatened in some way by what we hear. And our first thoughts are usually not our best reactions when in a threatened mindset. So attempt to focus on the point your colleague is making. We can discover our colleagues’ valid points after sitting with our emotions.
Once in a graceful mindset, actively seek feedback.
Yes, that’s right, actively seek it out.
One of the best ways to demonstrate respect for our colleagues is by asking for their opinion. But getting helpful feedback can be challenging. Peers may feel more like friends and don’t want to hurt your feelings. But hopefully, as they recognize feedback as the gift it is, they will provide honest input on your growth areas.
To help them do that:
Be clear you want honest feedback. Remind your colleagues that providing feedback is a great favor they are doing, so they should be comfortable by being truthful. Encourage them to be as helpful as possible.
Put them at ease by focusing on the future. Instead of asking your colleagues for examples of what you did wrong in the past, ask them what you can do better in the future. They will be more at ease giving these suggestions, and this approach has proven to lead to more open, honest, and helpful feedback.
This is where you can start small and get specific. Ask for feedback on a specific approach, skill, or behavior. For example, you might ask:
“How can I better communicate my ideas going forward?”
“What areas of collaboration should I strengthen?”
“How can I demonstrate greater respect for everyone’s ideas in meetings?”
Receive the feedback gracefully, as talked about above.
Acknowledge colleagues’ help. To sound like a broken record. All feedback is a gift, and by thanking those who take the time to help, you’re demonstrating respect for their opinion and offering them the opportunity to feel the benefits of being heard.
Write down the feedback. Doing this while chatting will signal you are taking your coworkers’ feedback seriously. It also gives them time to think of other helpful information they can provide.
Act on the feedback. After hearing improvement feedback, take time for introspection and search for what you can learn from it. Then define a plan to alter your approaches or behaviors.
Ask again for feedback. Demonstrate your appreciation for the person who provided helpful input by asking for updated feedback one more time. Share a change you are making and ask if they believe it is helping or what else you can do to improve even further. Then be prepared to share your continued efforts if they ask how things are going.
We sometimes feel we have failed when we receive constructive criticism. But remember, just like when learning that new sport, hobby, or skill, we were not masterful on our first try, but it was a learning opportunity on our journey to becoming masterful.
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