"Honest criticism is hard to take, particularly from a relative, a friend, an acquaintance, or a stranger." - Franklin P. Jones
"Take your life in your own hands, and what happens? A terrible thing: no one to blame." ~Erica Jong
I recently promoted two individuals in my organization, which is one of my favorite things to do. One thing that comes along with that is the discussions with those who were up for the position, but didn’t get it. Most of these went well because I have been providing regular feedback, however one went particularly bad. Unfortunately the candidate just didn’t understand where they were lacking even after multiple examples and references to prior feedback sessions. Finally I just asked; “What have I instructed you to do in this meeting to ensure you get the job the next time?” Their answer showed that my feedback, even from the current discussion, hadn’t sunk in at all.
Now while we can talk about a number of ways to drive your feedback home to your employees, that’s not what I want to talk about. You know why? I have done the same thing as that employee did, and not listened to the feedback I was receiving from my boss. And I’d be willing to bet you have done the same thing too.
Those that are best at receiving feedback will rise higher and quicker than their counterparts
As the quote at the very beginning of this post relates, receiving criticism is difficult and we have a lot of emotional defenses to it. The better you are at breaking through those defenses and being pragmatic and open to feedback, the better you will be at your job. So what can we do to be better the next time our boss sits us down:
Ask for examples – In a non-defensive way ask for examples so that you can see where these issues occurred and get a frame of reference for what they are looking for and at.
Ask questions – Ask what they would have wanted to see, clarify where the situation went wrong, and ask what they think you should do about it.
Come up with a plan – Every meeting should have a decision or action following it. In this case, putting instruction into action empowers you and uses the emotional impact of the feedback to create a clear “break” in behavior and assists in charting a course forward.
Astute readers will have realized that these three things are flipped from the best practices of giving feedback. Remember that great leaders receive more feedback than they give, and while that usually is stated as it relates to your team, it goes doubly so for your boss. So listen to what your boss is saying, both feedback and wisdom, because it will determine the course of your career. If you don’t, you’re relying too much on one side of the story.