Posted in Planning

Owning Feedback

Emily, you are such a great speaker, but your content today missed the mark.

Oh my gosh. She thinks I’m ignorant. I worked so hard on this content and I’m not sure how she missed my point. Was she even listening? She never says these things to anyone else. Why does she pick on me so much?

Hold on!!!! Maybe I over thought the assignment. Maybe I made assumptions rather than seeking clarification before creating my content. Maybe just maybe she’s not picking on me but has me in her sights for promotion, and wants to see me step up my game. Maybe she knows I can do better – heck, maybe I know I can do better, but I was traveling this week, my kids are sick, and I had these other things put on my plate so this didn’t get the attention I had anticipated.

It is what it is, right? I gave a speech or a talk and the feedback I received was less than glowing.

Has this ever happened to you? Maybe you aren’t a speaker, but you received feedback on a body of work you created. When you hear the word “feedback” does it make you shutter a little? It makes me shutter a lot. I have worked for YEARS to create a reputation for myself in the program and project management space. I want my customers to know that if my name is attached to it that it will be done right and on time. If I agree to something or someone entrusts something to me to complete then I show up. Hell will freeze over before it’s not done or worse – done wrong.

There is a flip side to receiving feedback and one that I hope you will try to embrace. If you can, look at feedback as a gift rather than a direct assault on your character. Feedback or rather a response to any intellectual property you create and share with others – is just that – someone’s opinion. It doesn’t validate you as a person. It doesn’t reflect anyone else’s opinion of your work. It doesn’t have power unless you allow it to.

Next time someone wants to give you their opinion of something you shared with them I want you to fight the instinctual response to take defense. Don’t immediately respond with all of the reasons why you did it the way you did it. Don’t start talking about the other people that you consulted or had review your content before you shared it. Don’t make excuses for why you didn’t have the time to polish your content. None of that matters to your audience.

(Note: I have to make an assumption here that you aren’t on a performance improvement plan or that this feedback doesn’t come after the 4th iteration of you trying to get this right.) The person providing you feedback took their time to listen to your talk or review your content. They had a laundry list of other things they could have been doing instead, but they showed up for you. Their feedback or ideas for changes are a gift. This person is providing you with the opportunity to make your work even better. Thank them for taking the time to hear you out or review your work. Ask questions. Provide them with how you are going to use their feedback to make changes; or not. Let me repeat – OR NOT.

If the person providing you feedback is your supervisor, project manger, or the person who assigned you the work – then their insights are absolutely valuable and should be considered and incorporated. Maybe the person providing feedback has limited knowledge of your role or the project and they are offering you an unbiased opinion as a completely independent third party. Maybe they’re your friend. Maybe they don’t know the details of the assignment (style requirements, assignment details). Thank them for their time and respectfully consider their comments. They may have ideas that you nor your team would have thought of that could take your work to the next level. If not and if their feedback isn’t applicable then don’t dwell on it. Move on.

I won’t belabor this point, but it’s natural for us to take a defensive stance when we feel that we have let others down or that other’s perceptions of our work is less than exceptional. Accept feedback in all forms with an attitude of gratitude. Believe that the comments come with the commenter having the best interests of you, your team, and your project in mind. Fix/augment/revise content as needed to make it the best it can be, but when feedback isn’t valid, don’t take it to heart. Don’t give it power.

*Featured image by Comic House.