If I could only ever train one skill for the rest of my career, it would be this one. Truly, I believe that if everyone knew how to do this one thing, everything would be better.
- More effective collaboration.
- Higher performance.
- Better relationships.
- Less stress.
- More focus on the actual work, instead of avoiding this.
- Probably fewer bad breakups.
But it is one of the most undertrained skills out there.
Let me tell you a story.
I had a company approach me about training to enable their managers to have difficult conversations, especially about underperformance.
It wasn’t a professionally handled interaction (so so bad), so I had a difficult conversation and gave them feedback on it.
I sighed but was not surprised when the attacks and explaining away responses came.
If the first thing you do when you get feedback about your performance is to defend yourself, then you don’t have a problem with criticism; you just haven’t learned to receive feedback.
Receiving feedback is one of the hardest parts of having difficult conversations.
I’m not blaming or calling anyone out. In fact, it takes courage to admit what you don’t know and ask for help.
It takes even more courage to accept the help offered.
But a slapback at someone giving you feedback doesn’t help anyone.
Why is this the one key skill, though?
Typical defensive behaviour in the face of feedback:
- explain and justify our actions, basically saying your words are worthless and I’m chucking them in the bin without even looking at them.
- attack the feedback giver, basically saying I’m feeling hurt and embarrassed so I’m going to hurt you now.
Both of these reveal that you’re not willing to learn, and you will create harm to anyone who tries to give constructive criticism.
Would you go back again and do the hard thing of having a difficult conversation and give feedback to someone you know is going to attack you?
Of course not. And all that input for learning and growth just disappears.
You’re all alone, with only yourself to help you figure everything out.
How exhausting and lonely.
psst I think this is why incompetent people keep their jobs – it’s so unpleasant to tackle their underperformance that most people just avoid it and work around them.
But imagine that you’re not alone in your career. You want to do a good job, learn, get better, get help with the tough things. And everyone you meet gives you a helping hand. Little nudges or big course corrections.
And they do it willingly, happily, generously.
Wouldn’t that be amazing?
That’s what you get when you learn how to receive feedback. A limitless supply of assistance, life hacks, and short cuts, for the rest of your life.
This post is part of my special Coaching Tips Series. This series was inspired by my clients and the core themes in their challenges. When we can apply these tips, we bring a lot of ease into our lives and step into our leadership. Want to talk it through with me? Call me and let’s make a Game Plan together.