The Honest Guide to Managing Critical Feedback

Feedback hurts, especially when it’s right.

We all enjoy succeeding. We enjoy that feeling of knowing we are contributing in our unique way, helping the organization move forward towards it’s goals. But when someone, especially someone we respect, shines a light on the areas we’ve been ignoring…it sucks. It’s like being kicked in the chest.

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I’m perfect in almost every way, so when a friend pulls me aside to direct my attention to an area I’ve been ignoring it’s not a very fun experience. I’ve found though, that dealing with true but negative feedback in a systematic way can help address the blindspot and get things back on track.

1. Scrape Yourself Up Off the Floor

When you respect the individual giving the feedback the truth they speak can feel like an emotional punch in the gut. Understanding the fact that it will take you some time to emotionally recover is an important step in the process. This person has highlighted an area you’d rather ignore and it’s not going to be fun to uncover it, but it’s something that needs to be done. It’s natural to feel embarrassed.

Give yourself some time. Maybe for you that’s a couple hours, maybe it’s a couple days, but pay close attention to when you're done "scraping yourself off the floor." Then it's time to move on to the next step.

2. Unpack Their Feedback

Now that you’ve moved past the emotion and the embarrassment, it’s time to review their feedback. What helpful areas did they uncover? It’s easy to take this feedback as a commentary on your own abilities. Let me tell you though, no matter what they’ve said, it’s not.

Their feedback, no matter how specific it is, is purely an cry for you to review your priorities.

They are helping you assess what’s most important right now. You might have areas where you feel like you’re doing great and it's frustrating that that area is being ignored. You might even hear yourself saying "Why focus on this? Aren't I doing great in other areas?" Remember, they aren’t ignoring those areas, they are merely highlighting an area of oversight.

3. Formulate a Plan

Now that you’ve identified the problem(s) and reassessed their level of priority it’s time to formulate a plan. How are you going to address this problem? Who can you ask to help? Do you need to begin to staff your weaknesses?

4. Announce Your Plan

Once you’ve formulated your plan, share it with your critic. If they truly cared enough to share the problem with you, they’d love to help you implement your solution. Do them the courtesy of sharing your plan.

5. Follow Through

Don’t stop at number 4 or your just a person with great intentions. Follow through. If you haven’t read “Getting Things Done” by David Allen, pick up a copy [link] and start putting your plan into action.

Feedback isn’t necessarily a criticism of you, it’s a criticism of your priorities…which are always worth re-evaluating.

Feedback isn’t necessarily a criticism of you, it’s a criticism of your priorities.

Question of the day: Who in your life has given you the healthiest feedback?