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4 Steps to Accepting and Acting on Negative Feedback

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All feedback is good, but not all feedback is positive. We’re often subject to negative feedback at work for different scenarios such as missing a performance target set by the organization or developing a high-end product idea that flopped after testing.

Regardless of the reason, accepting negative feedback can be difficult—especially if there is pressure across the board to perform in the face of perpetual downsizing, outsourcing, or consolidation.

It can be even harder if you’re just starting out. It’s easy to take the feedback as a personal affront. But nothing could be farther from the truth. Performance feedback isn’t meant to insult or demean, it’s an attempt to rehabilitate.

Think about it, why would your supervisor take the time to talk it out if they’d already given up on you? Because motivating a team also means holding team members accountable for what’s not working. Receiving feedback is a chance to improve and better support those around us.

So next time you’re called into the boss’ office for feedback, consider these four steps below:

1. Detach – Remember that it’s not personal

The first step is to detach, emotionally that is. Before the conversation starts, remind yourself that this feedback is based on job performance and factors that include objective data. It has nothing to do with how nice you are, how fun you are around the office, or how you live your life away from work.

Your supervisor is trying to do their job as well as you’ve been trying to do yours. They feel that talking to you now is vital for your own well-being as a team member and for the team as a whole. If there’s something you’re doing that needs to be better, they have a responsibility to everyone on the team to tell you—and early enough so you can address it and make the end result better for everyone.

“I think it’s very important to have a feedback loop, where you’re constantly thinking about what you’ve done and how you could be doing it better.” – Elon Musk

2. Information – Focus on the data

Your supervisor’s description of your performance should be specific and actionable, so listen first and take careful notes as you pick up on themes. The earlier you try to respond, the more likely you will appear defensive and only out to present your ‘side’.

If you focus on listening and taking down what observations they have, you are more likely to capture what needs improvement. If you’re focused on improving those things, you’ll ultimately grow and be successful in supporting the organization and remaining an asset to those around you.

3. Vision – Create an image of what improvement looks like

The conversation is over. You’ve left the office and are back in your workspace. Review your notes and think about what your supervisor said. It’s time to work on the counter-image—what does improvement look like? This is an exercise in setting and realizing a vision.

Imagine what it looks like for the opposite of the feedback to be true. Don’t think about the steps to get there yet. Focus on ‘winning’ the situation, accounting for each observation your supervisor provided and experiencing success. Develop a narrative that you can see the same way you can watch a television series play out.

Got the image? Now plan your steps, in reverse from the vision you have to the moment you find yourself in now. You must have a vision of where you’ll end up before you can plan the steps to get there, otherwise you’ll set out on a path that leads nowhere—and therefore never ends.

“Try not to become a man of success, but rather try to become a man of value.” – Albert Einstein

4. Empathize – Put yourself in the shoes of those around you

This is the most important step. Your supervisor felt it was the best thing for you and the team to tell you where you fell short and afford you a golden opportunity to do better. The truth is the conversation was likely as difficult for them as it was for you. Having to tell a teammate they’re not meeting standards can eat away at a manager, and is challenging because they must now consider what happens if you’re unable to improve.

You both have the organization’s best interest in mind. Feel what it’s like from their side, what it takes to manage the team and support everyone while meeting performance milestones set by senior leadership. Then think about the team around you.

What are they hoping to see from you? What can you do to help them focus elsewhere in the organization where there’s more work to be done? If you can push the envelope of improvement and get your team moving forward, it allows others to worry about the bigger problems ahead that will take everyone’s effort to solve.

Feedback is a tool for improvement, for yourself and those around you. If you’re receptive, you’ll engender trust and remain as an asset to the organization. That goes for managers, too.

Feedback is a two-way street, so if you’re that supervisor, remember to solicit feedback from your employees on a regular basis and rely on these same four steps to improve and look positively to the future.

How do you deal with handling negative feedback? Let us know your tips for others!

Image courtesy of Twenty20.com

Arun Chittur writes and consults on leadership, training, and development with nearly 20 years’ experience in the military, education, and biotechnology. His mission is to help teams find meaning in what they do and realize lasting vision. His writing has appeared in platforms such as Thrive, Assignment Magazine Online, and more. He works with teams, public and private, to craft a vision for the future and live it out through adaptive personal and team development. Please visit www.enabledword.com for more information and to join the conversation.

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2 Comments

2 Comments

  1. vipul rathod

    Dec 6, 2018 at 12:35 am

    Always go for quality not quantity.

  2. Harsh

    Dec 3, 2018 at 6:38 pm

    I can relate to it. Detaching myself from the negative things has always worked. But we have to do it sensibly and gracefully

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How to Protect Yourself From Other People’s Negativity

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When I was a kid, it seemed like I felt pain more than anyone else around me. Not just physical pain, but emotional pain. I cried easily, over many things. I had an especially hard time when people were fighting around me, and I didn’t even have to be involved. I could feel the negative energy and felt upset and overwhelmed. I didn’t have a constructive way of handling it. (more…)

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We all have a God-given destiny to fulfill that we were each born with. I personally believe it is buried deep down within us. The number one secret to success is to let it emerge out of you and release it to the world. What is my destiny you may ask? It is the thing you would regret not doing before leaving Planet Earth. (more…)

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Don’t Want To Feel Like A Failure Anymore? Stop Doing These 6 Things

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It’s pretty annoying isn’t it? All those great and accomplished people telling you that FAILURE is a necessity on your way to success. Yeah, that’s easy for them to say; they’re already ‘on the other side’! You on the other hand, are still struggling all day everyday to get your business lifted off the ground and are really not that sure if you’re indeed going to make it.

There’s that little voice in your head that keeps telling you that you don’t have the stuff to make it all happen. Not now and not ever. You feel like a failure…it’s holding you back and you don’t know how to deal with it. Well you could do yourself a favor and start dealing with it by doing the following things:

1. Stop Denying You Feel Like A Failure

Telling yourself things are going great when they’re not is one of the biggest, though most useless, coping mechanisms human beings deploy in rough times. Common denial signals among entrepreneurs: trying to regain more control by working even more hours and on the other side compensating this by letting go of all this control by partying and drinking way too hard.

What you’re doing is denying yourself the opportunity to actually feel what’s going on and acknowledge the problem; that both you and your business are in a bad place. Without acknowledging it, it’ll be pretty difficult to actually STOP feeling it. And remember, just because you feel like a failure, this does not mean that you indeed ARE a failure!

2. Stop Making It Bigger Than it Really Is

This is one of those other ‘fun’ things human beings do; we blow things way out of proportion in our heads! In business, when you lose that big client you’ve been working on for weeks, it feels like it’s the end of the world. You start doubting yourself, your strategy, your entire business model right up to the point where you barely sleep because you’re working on pivoting the whole thing.

But what if that customer simply didn’t have the money to go for your service anyway? Or what if they just decided to go for someone who is cheaper but who offers less quality? Does that mean there’s something wrong with YOU? Or that this was the ONLY customer out there and that you’re now doomed forever?

Of course not, it simply means that THIS CUSTOMER wasn’t a match. It’s a bit like dating actually…So if you take this into consideration, could it be that you just feel like a failure instead of really not succeeding in that what you want to at this point in time?

3. Stop Thinking You’re The Only One Who Feels Like This

You’re not! With the possible exception of the true sociopaths, that feeling you’re feeling is very normal to EVERYONE. It might not seem like it on the outside – because people don’t like to acknowledge this remember – but I can guarantee you that it’s true. But unlike 99% of the world’s population, YOU’RE not going to let this feeling stop you in your tracks. Are you?

4. Stop Thinking You’re Supposed To Be Superhuman

In fact, it’s very likely that you’re already doing, learning and succeeding at WAY more than most other people are. But for entrepreneurs, somehow, that never seems to be enough. You don’t just want to be successful after a few years of hard work (which is normal). You want to be successful after only a few months. Because you’re special…or at least you think you are…

Well, here’s the truth: you ARE special! But…it’s just not very likely that you’re one of those – very very rare – entrepreneurial superstars that – seemingly – just added some hot water and got instant business success as a result.

5. Stop Being So Incredibly Stubborn

Entrepreneurs are stubborn…almost by default. It’s what makes them push forward in the hardest of times. But…if you’re not doing the right things right you might just be hammering a square peg through a round hole. Which will only add to that frustrated feeling you’re already having. So why not stop being so stubborn for a moment, stop hammering away on that what obviously is not working and ask for help?

No matter who you ask – a business mentor or coach, a befriended entrepreneur – someone with a neutral perspective on you and our business will be very likely to see what’s going on with a lot more clarity than you can and can guide you to a place that will feel a whole lot more comfortable.

6. Stop Being Afraid Of Failure

I know, I know, you’ve heard this a million times before and you wouldn’t be in this pickle if you could do this. Right? I’m right there with ya!

But, if you get really rational about it, what’s the worst that could happen?

  • You might have to get a ‘real’ job for a while and start over on the side;
  • You might not be able to afford your rent anymore…but with Airbnb on the 1 hand and couchsurfing on the other, you should be able to work it out somehow;
  • You’ll have all the more experience to start over a whole lot faster;
  • You’ll be no less respected by anyone because it’s clear you gave it your all;
  • In a few years, when you’re an established and supersuccessful entrepreneur you’ll also have a cool failure story to tell;
  • None of your limbs will fall off;

Now that’s not too bad for a plan B is it? Failure is such a negative word. And the associated feeling is terrible and numbing. But really…how is giving it your all and not succeeding really the same as failing? Shouldn’t the definition of failure not be along the lines of ‘not even trying’ or ‘giving up when it gets hard’?

In other words: stop beating yourself up over this!

There’s really no need to feel like a failure at all because you’re sticking your neck out, you’re trying to make a difference and you’re still moving upward on that treacherous entrepreneurial mountain.

And that…is what success REALLY is.

Those Who Failed Their Way To Success

Quotes To Live By:

“Only those who dare to fail greatly can ever achieve greatly.” – Robert F. Kennedy

“If you don’t try at anything, you can’t fail… it takes back bone to lead the life you want” – Richard Yates

“I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” – Thomas A. Edison

“We are all failures – at least the best of us are.” – J.M. Barrie

“Success is stumbling form failure to failure with no loss of enthusiasm” – Winston Churchill

“Don’t let success go to your head and failure to your heart” – Will Smith

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