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You Can Dish It Out, but Can You Take It?

You are responsible for developing your team. You are responsible for nurturing them, inspiring them, guiding them, and cultivating them. You are responsible for delivering positive feedback and constructive critiques. All of those things that you are responsible to provide for your employees, your Leader is responsible for providing for you. You are able to have the tough conversation, but how do you behave when you’re the one receiving the criticism?

Let’s assume that you have a good working relationship with your supervisor and that they are offering their observations with honesty and positive intent. Responding to the shared information comes down to three steps: listen, process, and act.

Listen. Be present in the moment to stay focused on what your manager is saying. Your brain may want to jump ahead, make assumptions, or interrupt with questions, but use active listening skills to pay attention objectively and without judgment. Notice not only the content of the message, but also vocal tone, rate of speech, facial expression, and body language. If it would help in how you work through information, take notes as you go along. Allow your superior to deliver their initial comments, and when necessary, ask clarifying questions. To avoid any confusion or mixed messages, summarize what you heard before the meeting concludes.

Process. Once the conversation has been had, allow yourself time to consider what has been said. Give yourself the chance to think through the points that were shared and evaluate what is accurate and relevant. Remember that the conversation’s purpose is to promote your career growth. Even if you don’t agree with the assessment, remain calm and professional. The feedback isn’t a personal attack; it is your leader’s observation of your performance and behavior. Often, the points that you may disagree with are also the points that you can learn from, if you are open-minded and self-reflective.

Act. Decide on the key takeaways from the conversation, and determine what happens next. What actions can you take to correct mistakes or to improve performance? Choose one or two immediate responses and one or two longer term plans to put into place. A quick win restores your confidence and shows your supervisor that you continue to learn and develop. Long range goals indicate a learning mindset and investment in your future. Ask your colleagues for guidance or support, and set a date to follow up with your leader to ensure that you are moving in the right direction.

Feedback can be difficult, but it doesn’t have to be devastating. Use it to fuel, not frustrate, and you, your team, and your manager will recognize your leading by example through strength and resilience. Want to take it a step further? Don’t wait for feedback . . . ask for it. Ask for it from the people who report to you as well as those you report to, and ask for it often. You’ll be amazed at your own growth potential. Listen. Process. Act.

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