Breaking Ground – Through Negative Feedback!

negative feedback

“Feedback is the breakfast of champions” – Ken Blanchard

Feedback, as we all know is one of the most important aspects of our professional existence. We need feedback to learn, to grow, to improve and to excel at our work. Without feedback, we are walking blind, aimlessly through the dark. Why is it then that many managers and employees dread giving or receiving feedback esp when it is negative.

There are times when we do well and our efforts create desired results. Such actions and efforts are welcomed by positive feedback and appreciation which generate lots of positive energy and enthusiasm to work more to get even better results. However, there are times when we may be out of sync, our efforts not producing desired results, few circumstances not working in our favour or plainly that we could not perform upto the expectations. In these and many such other circumstances we are unable to create the desired result leading to criticism and negative feedback. These scenarios are usually stressful for both managers and employees. After all who wants to be the bearer of bad news! What actually creates stress is an inherent belief that ‘criticism is always bad’. It becomes damaging to our psyche because we think it is damaging.

What if we thought of negative feedback  as ‘windows of opportunity’ to improve our performance, to see what we couldn’t see ourselves and turn things around. Why doesn’t negative feedback inspire us to think differently, do things differently and get outstanding results. Consider the following negative feedback which were given to people who went on to become living legends –

  • Oprah Winfrey was fired from Baltimore’s WJZ TV for being ‘too emotionally’ involved with the stories she reported.
  • Amitabh Bachchan was rejected as a newsreader as his ‘voice quality’ was very bad
  • Steven Spielberg was denied by USC’s prestigious film school not once, but twice
  • Lady Gaga got dropped by a major record label after only three months
  • Walt Disney was fired by a newspaper editor because ‘he lacked imagination and had no good ideas’.

The idea is not to become totally impervious to negative feedback. It holds too much important information to ignore. What we definitely need to do is to filter good data from junk and take steps for improvement. People who are able to handle criticism better tend to be more successful.  All of us are humans and ‘to err is human’. We all go through phases of Ups and Downs. Even God of cricket (Sachin Tendulkar) can’t hit a century every time. The idea is to be consistent in our efforts and be conscious of how each effort can be made better next time. High performers are often high performers because they are good at accepting feedback and using it as a fuel for personal growth.

So buck up, stop letting criticism sting you and start using it to your advantage. Here are some tips:

  1. Don’t personalize it – If we view criticism as condemnation of our character, an indictment of who we are then its going to have a crippling effect on our psyche. Take it as a view on one particular event, one valuable data point for improvement and we are suddenly liberated from devastating negative emotions.
  2. Filter – Once we find value in negative feedback, we need to filter out useful nuggets of information, even if its delivered in a harsh manner. Mark Murphy, Founder of Leadership IQ, uses a model to break down the layers of a conversation into Facts, Interpretations, Reactions, Ends –F.I.R.E. Take what’s useful and move on.
  3. Self Belief – It pays off to be thick skinned and have confidence in self. Psychological toughness helps people understand that it was a indeed a mistake, but it can be absolutely fixed.
  4. Reach Out – We have abundant resources at our disposal only if we are ready to use them. If we work collaboratively, engage others, take their help and help others, we expand our universe of learning.
  5. Follow Up – Many people want to change their behaviour after receiving negative feedback. That can be done by setting up specific goals and timelines for follow up.
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