3 Strategies For Handling Feedback Like A Champ

The following guest post is written by Don Martin, one of Workgroups’ talented project managers.

Growing up, it was common knowledge that the street in front of my high school was a speed trap. The street was wide and slightly hilly, making the 20mph speed limit almost impossible not to exceed. As a result, perpetrators (me included…twice) would frequently be pulled over and slapped with a ticket for precisely $160.25. One day the situation changed. About a quarter-mile before the school, a speed display sign was installed on the side of the road. This sign showed the speed of the approaching car and flashed “SLOW DOWN” in large yellow letters when you exceeded the speed limit. The first time I approached this sign I was nearing 40mph! Immediately, I slammed on the brakes until I was under the speed limit and continued through the school zone ticket-free.

Thinking back on this example, I am reminded of the importance of receiving feedback from outside sources. I didn’t have to wait for a police officer to pull me over and tell me I was speeding; I was able to receive the feedback immediately from the speed display sign. Not only did receiving this feedback save me some much-needed money, but it also allowed me to correct my behavior instantaneously. The same holds true in our daily lives. Being open to receiving timely and honest feedback is a great way to boost both your personal and professional growth. Below are three ideas for how to receive effective feedback.

Don’t dread it, crave it

Most people need a fundamental mindset change when it comes to feedback. We know that feedback is important, but we mostly only want to hear the good kind. My high school basketball coach used to say, “Anyone can tell you what you want to hear, but the most valuable people in your life will tell you what you need to hear.” Think about who you surround yourself with. Are those people constantly affirming everything that you do? If so, you may not be receiving the most honest and helpful feedback. I challenge you to surround yourself with people who will provide objective feedback. Honest, and, yes, sometimes negative feedback is an important tool to improve both yourself and the work that you are creating. Those who recognize this benefit don’t dread receiving feedback, but crave it instead.

Separate the “do” from the “who”

How we hear feedback is just as important as our desire to receive it. Oftentimes, when we receive feedback we perceive it as a criticism of who we are. When we do so, we feel that our personal identity is being attacked and we’re less receptive to the feedback. Instead, we need to view feedback as being about what we do. This approach does not magically make receiving feedback easy, but it does put feedback in the proper perspective. We can all improve and need others to help us find our blind spots. When we can separate the who from the do, we are more likely to stay open-minded and use the feedback to improve ourselves and our work.

Ask clarifying questions

Have you ever received vague feedback (i.e. “This needs some work” or “I really didn’t like it”)? I have and it leaves me scratching my head as I try to decipher what was meant. In these cases, it is important to ask clarifying questions. For instance, “Can you give me a specific example?” or “How can I do better next time?” can help you uncover more information. Asking these clarifying questions prevents both misinterpretations and miscommunication. Plus, it shows that you value the person giving you the feedback and genuinely care about their ideas.

It is commonly said, “You don’t know what you don’t know.” This is especially true when it comes to evaluating ourselves. We all have blind spots that require the insights of others. Your willingness to receive and accept feedback from others will ensure your ability to identify these blind spots (and speed traps!) and achieve maximum growth.