How to Take Feedback Constructively
We’ve all been there. You think you are working your hardest, bringing your “A-game” and someone stops you in your tracks with some constructive criticism. Except sometimes it doesn’t feel helpful. It can feel critical, or micro-managing, or any number of negative words that you may choose to see it as. However, the way you react to this feedback has everything to do with you, and not much to do with the person who is giving it, or even what they are suggesting.
Years ago, I was working in a small company – wearing a few hats, doing some administrative work, some customer service, and starting out my early career in management. I also was responsible for making the coffee. During the first few months of working there, I ran around like a chicken with my head cut off, finding the best and fastest ways to juggle all of the new tasks I was rapidly taking on, and also keeping the coffee made. A more senior manager, who eventually became my mentor, would often stop me, have me sit down with him for a few minutes, and remark on things like: “Don’t you hate when you walk into a professional establishment and the coffee is burning and smells like a Seven-Eleven?” I personally hated these good-natured approaches of reminding me that the coffee was just as important as any other aspect of my job. I felt that any number of the responsibilities that I had taken on outweighed the importance of a minor coffee smell. However, he was very persistent in reminding me at least weekly (if not daily) about how much he hated the smell of burning coffee and how much it reminded him of gas station coffee, not the image we were trying to portray. Flash forward several years, and I’m managing the person who makes the coffee…and doesn’t it just bug me when I smell that coffee pot starting to burn. I now think back to those conversations….he was right. It wasn’t that the coffee was the most important part of my job back then, but it lends itself to an overall atmosphere and vibe of a business. Sometimes something as minor as a coffee burning smell can detract from the appearance you work so hard in other areas to maintain for your clients.
The best way to take constructive criticism is to remove “you” from the equation.
Removing yourself makes it less personal and you can objectively think about the advice you are being given. Pretend that it’s not your own efforts being critiqued, but some other unnamed person’s. Do you agree with the feedback when it isn’t about you? Would the feedback help to improve something?
There’s always room for improvement.
Even if you feel you are doing your best, you’ve dotted all of your i’s and crossed all of your t’s, you can always learn something new. Always. No one knows everything, and sometimes hearing from someone with an outsider’s perspective, or years of experience, can help get your creative juices flowing on a new way to innovate a task.
Thank the person who offers you the feedback.
Whether it’s a simple reminder to do something, or a larger path of personal and professional growth that someone puts you on, the best way to accept the feedback is with a simple “thank you”. You may not learn until years later that there are layers and depth to the advice you are given. Someone who cares enough to offer a suggestion on a different way to do things deserves a “thanks.” Occasionally, people may give you what seems to be incredibly unhelpful advice about how to do something, when that happens, you may need politely thank them, take a minute, examine the advice, and understand why it will or will not work for you moving forward.
What may begin as a small tidbit about making coffee, can quickly become a metaphor for providing the kind of quality service you strive to deliver.
How do you handle feedback?[hupso]