Responding to difficult feedback

October 2, 2009

First, listen to the feedback.  Don’t be in a hurry to respond — either internally, or with a verbal or quickly written response.

Then ask how could I experience the truth of that feedback? Somebody might say, for example, that I’m scattered.  I “know” that I’m not — that I really have a long but coherent set of interests and talents.  But wait . . .  somebody who doesn’t know me might see the range of things that I address and quickly dismiss me as a scattered dilettante. In “experiencing the truth” I don’t  necessarily have to agree with the feedback, but I should identifying with a content that gave birth to it.

Finally, ask what would this feedback lead me to do, and am I prepared to do that? In the example above, it might lead me to write a short piece about how my several professional interests complement and inform each other . . . telling the world what I already believe that I know.  (Indeed, that was the concept that gave birth to this blog, with its wide range of content.)

Whatever you do, don’t get threatened, hurt, or aggravated by feedback that you believe in unfair, ungrounded, or unkind.  This is easier said than done, but it’s essential for survival.

Recently I attended a series of programs on entrepreneurship.  At the session on getting capital, all the speakers — bankers, venture capitalists, angels, and private investors — stressed that the main thing that look for in a management team is that the people are “coach-able”.  That means being able to hear feedback, take it in, and change when appropriate.

One Response to “Responding to difficult feedback”

  1. Being “coachable” makes not just good managers, but also good employees. I’d rather have an employee with only basic knowledge and good attitude/willingness to learn, than one who is mid- or higher-level knowledge but with a marginal attitude.

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