Unlike the rest of the world, I was born perfect. Nothing needed to be changed about me from the moment I arrived, and I expect, until the moment I leave. It’s a bit challenging to be this perfect, but it’s my cross to bear, and I try to do it quietly.
Unless you’re like me, perfect, you might find occasions where your coworkers, partners, bosses, or even customers offer their opinion on how you could improve. Sometimes these suggestions are helpful, and sometimes they are physically impossible (is there somewhere that the sun doesn’t shine?), but what you do with these suggestions, and how you go about handling them, can have quite an impact on your career.
I have seen many different ways for people to cope with criticism, and here are few that seemed to be the most effective. For them, not for me. Remember, I was born perfect.
Whether you consider it feedback, complaining, whining, or constructive criticism, listen to what the other person has to say. This isn’t the time to get defensive or try to justify your actions. Just like any other discussion, let them finish what they are trying to say, and then take a moment to consider it. Is the person telling you how to do your job, or are they telling you the kind of help they need? Usually, criticism is coming from someone that wants to help you serve them better, so take the time to listen to what they have to say.
“He has a right to criticize, who has a heart to help.” — Abraham Lincoln
Consider the source, and then think through their suggestion. Is it something that you can possibly do? If you were to complete the task at hand in the way they are suggesting, would the final outcome be different?
Don’t get caught up in the blame-game. It doesn’t matter if “it’s procedure” or “this is the way I was taught how to do it.” Change comes through discussion, and providing all parties are actually interested in improving the end result, everything should be considered. Don’t write a person’s suggestion off because you think they don’t have a clue about what you do. Sometimes it takes a fresh perspective to create a great solution.
Once they have shared their thoughts on the situation, and you have taken the time to consider the various possibilities, discuss the merits of their idea, as well as the possible challenges. Work together to determine how the solution would play out. Discuss who is responsible for each part of the solution. When will it happen? And if it doesn’t happen, what will be the consequences?
Once you have decided on a course of action, remember to measure the results. Tracking your progress to determine the final outcome is critical to your career. In the near future you can say that you were part of “x” initiative, and through collaboration you were able to take “a” all the way to “b”. Since it was a team effort, and you were part of the team as well as the one making the change, you can feel proud to share your success. Or, you might find through measurement that the suggestion is not better, and output was actually higher through the old system. This should lead to more feedback/critique to either revert back to the old way, or tweak the new system as you see fit.
Now, the above techniques only really work when you are talking about valid criticism. Personal attacks are a different matter, but you are probably more than confident enough to handle that kind of problem. Also, if you keep these techniques in mind before you supply someone with your constructive criticism, there is a good chance that you can work together to make a positive change.
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