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Transforming Critical Feedback into Growth
Your reaction to feedback could be a blindspot. Change it now.
A couple months ago I engaged with a executive coach, Ashuma Ahluwalia, with the goal of getting a 360 type review done. I don’t work in a big organization that has a structured feedback cycle. I’ve been in the startup world and now in the venture capital world.
My ask was simple. I asked Ashuma to approach anyone she wished. I was explicit that they could be anyone from my Linkedin contacts, from business school classmates, or any other part of my life. I wanted real feedback. I didn’t want feel good feedback. I wanted useful feedback.
Ashuma reached out to a number of people. Some of those individuals did reach out to me to make sure it was a legit request being asked of them. Some thought I was interviewing for a job and were wondering if they should say anything specific; gotta love friends. My ask from everyone was to please be as honest as possible even if it is brutal.
A few weeks later I got my report and Ashuma went through it with me. It was really a great experience hearing all the feedback. Ashuma had done a great job. However, the icing on the cake was when Ashuma complimented me on the way I was taking the feedback. Her point being that I was not being defensive about the feedback that was not favourable.
I was happy to hear that particular statement by Ashuma. I was glad I’d reached a point where I was not being defensive about feedback. It serves me well in a number of ways.
First, when you don’t take feedback personally you can do something about it. Yes, some feedback will always be inaccurate. Worst yet, some feedback will be biased or even racist. In every instance it’s better to not take it personally. The only way to make it work for you is to not be defensive.
Second, when you get feedback and are not defensive you should ask questions and inquire more on the feedback. Try and learn what caused the feedback you don’t like. It’s the only way you are going to learn from your mistakes.
Third, if a specific example is used maybe ask how you could have handled it better? Don’t be dismissive. If the feedback is direct from a person giving you the feedback they can tell you their perspective. If it is through a coach like Ashuma then the coach most likely has dug into it and will be able to provide you a deeper level of insight.
Negative feedback is far more valuable than positive feedback. You can’t improve something you are good at. You can improve something you are not doing well at. Of course you want to generally have more positive feedback than negative but how you take feedback ultimately will help you more than how you fight feedback.
If you are reading this and are a manager/leader I have something additional for you. Your role is grow people and help them improve not to crush their soul and destroy them. Give real time feedback, support your team, and care for them like you would want to be cared for. Don’t play politics with your team members.
Would love to hear any thoughts anyone else has that can help make this more valuable to readers.
Finally, if you are looking to work with an executive coach I do highly recommend Ashuma. You can contact her through her Linkedin page here.