How to get better at accepting feedback

Wednesday, February 5th, 2014 By Jack Nevison

Even those of us who say we want to receive critical feedback about our work do not always handle it well. We like hearing about what we do well, but still find it difficult to listen to what we need to change to improve. Often, our pride gets in the way.

However, project managers should mentor their teams on how to receive criticism. If individuals can learn to understand and manage their feelings when hearing feedback, they'll be better able to benefit from it.

An article in the Harvard Business Review offers some tips on ways to become a better feedback "receiver."

All of us have ingrained responses that can cause us "to throw valuable feedback on the discard pile" or, "act on comments that you would be better off discarding." Here are a few of the authors' six steps to becoming a better receiver.

1. Know your tendencies. Do you get angry or teary? Does your opinion of the feedback change over time? Once you know your pattern, you're in a better position to respond to the feedback rationally, not emotionally.

2. Sort toward coaching. "Some feedback is evaluative ('Your rating is a 4'); some is coaching ('Here's how you can improve)." We all need both, but receivers often lump the two together and lose the value of the coaching.

3. Engage in small experiments. "When someone gives you advice, test it out. If it works, great. If it doesn't, you can try again…or decide to end the experiment."

Your on-the-job growth depends in part on how well you manage your natural (and unhelpful) response to criticism. If you can, seek out "even more advice and coaching from bosses, peers, and subordinates." You "are the most important factor in your own development."

At New Leaf Project Management, our 2-day program, "Leading the Project Team," will show you the best ways to offer—and receive—criticism from your colleagues. In addition, our online QPM games let you learn while you earn PDU credits for PMP recertification.

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