How Feedback Can Help You Grow

by ThinkFeminist on January 22, 2013


There is a huge amount of freedom that comes to you when you take nothing personally - Don Miguel Ruiz

As a realist, I confront adversity differently than an optimist who faces adversity directly, solicits feedback and faces those facts. I tend to be somewhere in between because I like to choose my own adverse scenario. It doesn’t always start well, but it ends well. As women, we love friendly relationships and it’s super hard to accept criticism because it somehow signals that the person offering criticism or feedback does not like us. I have learned in my eight years in corporate America to face my bosses, my co-workers, clients and teams with a powerful yet accepting tone. A tone that signals that I am in control but yet open to feedback. And acceptance is a vulnerability that is required so that we don’t appear defensive or pompous.

One of the feedback I recently received is that I am a big picture person and I never pay attention to details. At first, I felt like I was being referred to as ‘scratchy’ or ‘incompetent’ and that got me really riled up that I lost sleep for days. I was the college student who knew every theory, laws, hypotheses by heart. The other night, I quoted Avogadros law and Le Chatelier’s principle after couple of hours drinking with my friends explaining how molarity works and the Uncertainty Principle. All this while, I thought I was detailed oriented and extremely good at it. But, eventually, I called my mentor and almost yelled on the phone when it rang five times already and on the sixth dial tone, he picked up. And as I cried on the other end of the phone, he respectfully told me that the feedback was spot on.

I cried even harder.

He explained to me how I have always been a budding entrepreneur. I really never cared how things worked as long as they worked. I was more concerned about how much more systems we could get up running, and how much more those outcomes would affect the bottomline. He said my mind worked not like an engineer, but a leader.

I got home and cried even more. I quickly dug out my ‘Analysis, Synthesis and Design of Chemical Processes by Tuton, Ballie, Whiting and Shaeiwitz” – by all means, I had to re-awaken the engineer and scientist in me. But, after countless hours of reading page to page, I felt defeated. Who was I kidding? My MBTI over the last eight years have shown me that I am an ENTJ, most Presidents and CEOs share these personality type indicator by the way. And according to a StrengthFinders 2.0, a book I highly recommend, I know for sure that it will be a pure waste of my time trying to focus on my weakness. It’s great that I have an engineering background; my company’s CEO is an engineer, so who knows where my entrepreneurial/leadership qualities might take me.

But that was not the lesson of feedback I wanted to share with you. The true lesson here is that I did something about it, I tried different things and tried to view the feedback from different perspectives.

Do some Ruminative Thinking. Call a Few People

Reaching out to others, those you can trust who have a first-hand knowledge of who you are and the situation helps to quickly shed light on the situation/feedback.

Observe Your Behavioral Patterns and Subconscious Beliefs.

There were times when I would rather read a report/summary on a an equipment/system failure than the failure analysis or multiple spreadsheets attached. I started logging these kinds of behaviors and it gave me enough data to talk about with my mentor. I also was able to come to terms with the person who gave me that feedback because at first, I felt they were rather insulting.

Come to terms with the Feedback or Situation

This is the hardest part. Depending on what kind of feedback, chances are, you will not get to make changes immediately. So, you have two options, change your course or start taking notes of those behaviors/situations. Back to my situation, I decided to start zooming in on my big picture every now and then. I had a reminder on my whiteboard, I also shared this feedback with my boss who constantly reminds me. I know that I will not be in this job position for long, and maybe I will be back to being a team leader like I was in my previous role or even maybe a manager but whatever that role is, I realize that I need to focus on what I need today and what I need today is more detail. Find out what you need to do differently. Will you need to develop a new skill, or will you have to remind yourself on some trigger words that offsets some odd behavior you tend to show in a meeting. Whatever it is, work on it.

Feedback paves the way for growth. As women, we learn so much from our experiences and mistakes. It’s about time we welcome criticism, feedback and fix the problem. Because by doing so, we fix every small problem in our journey and before we know it, the next opportunity is waiting for us.

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How have you responded to feedback in the past?

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{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Kerry April 3, 2013 at 3:47 pm

I just finished a book on this very topic – What Got You Here Won’t Get You There. It is tough to get feedback, and the author writes that the areas we think we need to work on are often not the same as what our peers would identify. In other words, we have blind spots. The other thing he pointed out is that as you are working on an area of feedback, you need to advertise it. I had a similar moment to you when I received feedback and was practically in tears. I felt like my manager was trying change my core and wanted me to be a company clone. I suppose I learned that I need to make a few small modifications, but I’m hoping my organization will also appreciate my diverse style and recognize it brings something different to the company.


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