A Springboard for You

For a better life and a better eternity

Two Ways to Grow from Negative Feedback

Oh no! The dreaded review. Your boss has just given you some feedback. Sure, most of it was positive but some was negative. Or maybe a co-worker just passed something on to you showing you where you are falling short. Our natural response? “Who does he think he is?” Or “What business does she have telling me that, she does _____________________.” 

Few of us do naturally well with complaints and criticism. Sadly, when we react this way and filter out what people are saying to us, we miss some golden opportunities to help others and reach our potential.


Key #1: Don’t filter out the feedback, ask growth questions.

Follow the advice of Roger Connors and Tom Smith in their great book, Journey to the Emerald City, the follow up to their awesome book The Oz Principle: Getting Results through Individual and Organizational Accountability. Instead of filtering the feedback, ask three simple questions.

  1. Is this a belief I want people to have?
  2. Will this belief get in the way of my desired results?
  3. What can I do to change this belief?

Think about it. Does it really matter if your boss does the same thing for which she has just criticized you? Does it really matter if the guy pointing out your flaw is the youngest and newest guy in the company? Does it matter if the person who has accurately described your shortcoming is the oldest and most out of date and backward person you’ve ever met? NO! NO! and NO!

What matters is are you engendering in people the confidence they need to trust you and rely on you and turn to you. So, don’t filter out the feedback to salve your conscience. Ask the right questions to promote growth.


Key #2: Reinterpret the complaint as expressions of need.

Instead of letting the complaint be about you, reinterpret it in a way that says something about the person making the complaint, listening to the complaint as an expression of the person’s needs.

For instance, your boss complains in your review because your reports aren’t clear and concise enough. Don’t walk away saying, “I’ll show you clear and concise, pal.” Instead recognize the request in this. See the need your boss has. What the boss is saying is the demands on his time are great and what he really needs from you are reports that he can work through quickly because they are lucid, logical and brief. He isn’t rejecting you. He isn’t saying you are a bad worker. He’s saying he needs some help from you. Wow. How great that is that you can really help your boss.

Perhaps a subordinate complains to your superior about how you are never available for consultation and help. Instead of blowing up about all your time constraints and how you don’t have time, recognize the need being expressed behind this. What does this complaint say about the needs your subordinates have. They are not rejecting you. They are not saying they don’t want to work under you. They are not saying other managers are better than you. They are instead saying that they need guidance from you. They need more than just a figurehead manager or boss who lays out guidelines and offers goals but then leaves them alone. They need someone who is actually invested in their success and will help them when they are struggling.

Yes, yes, I know there are situations where you have to say some reports are just going to be complex and you don’t want to enable lack of initiative for your subordinates. But if you want to grow and reach your potential, reinterpret complaints as expressions of needs and ways to help the people who are offering them.

October 30, 2008 - Posted by | A Springboard for Your Professional Life, Growth | , , , , , , , , , ,

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