We have read many books and articles about “giving” feedback. We have written about “giving” feedback. At the Center for Creative Leadership, we were trained on how to “give” feedback. But we have never read or heard any advice about “receiving” feedback. Once again, the Harvard Business Review (January 2014, “Finding the Coaching in Criticism“) offers some very practical suggestions for Type A personalities like us. This is a must-read, even if you have to pay for it. (Just for the record, we do not get any kickbacks from HBR.)
We’ll begin with an observation, and then tell a story (you know we love to tell stories).
One of many contributions Bill Hermann, managing partner of Plante Moran from 2001-2009, made was to change the company’s internal language from having a focus on making constructive criticism to emphasizing developmental feedback. In my (Tom’s) 38th annual performance review (just two years before my retirement), Bill asked, with a smile on his face, “Tom, what are you going to do different this year, to improve your performance?” How do you you think I felt? It may surprise you, but I can honestly say it made me feel energized and enthusiastic! Setting goals for yourself is motivating; if there was nothing to improve upon, what value is there in working hard?
Now the story. Months before my retirement, I was involved in a number of the partners’ annual performance reviews. As I was preparing for one of these sessions, another partner said, “We need to be careful in this annual review with Charlie so that we (the three of us) do not talk too much and Charlie has time to express himself.” This being my last performance review with Charlie, of whom I was very fond, I could not hold back — and I talked too much. I’m certain that those of you who know me are not at all surprised.
About an hour later, one of the partners in attendance stopped by my office. He said, “You talked too much! Because you will be involved in several more partner performance reviews, you need to chill.”
I reacted in a way that was open to receiving the feedback, and rather than being defensive about the criticism, I modified my behavior. Eureka!!!
Please read the article and change the way you react to feedback. You will be better off — and so will those people with whom you interact.