How to Survive Feedback

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Amber was shaken and hurt and started to wonder if she really was cut out to be the team leader. Things were so much easier when she was just a team member.

Amber clearly got some feedback that made her question her capabilities. She also felt angry with that person, who she felt was acting in a petty and jealous way. When coaching new managers like Amber, here are some things that I tell them:

Amber was so excited when she was promoted to shift supervisor a month ago. It was her first experience leading a team of people, but she was confident that things would go smoothly. She knew most of the team very well and considered herself a friend with quite a few of them. So it was upsetting when one of her team members accused her of showing favoritism after she had publicly praised another employee in a meeting.

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Remember that there’s a reason you were selected for this position. It’s natural for us to be very aware of our own shortcomings, and these insecurities come into focus when we’re faced with difficult feedback. At the same time, we often lose sight of our strengths. Think about the qualities others saw in you that led to you being promoted. Chances are, those qualities are still there.

Be honest with yourself about how you’re feeling at the moment. It can be helpful to say out loud (or to yourself): “I’m feeling really defensive right now.” Somehow, acknowledging where you are in the moment can help you become more objective about the actual message, rather than merely attacking the messenger.

Look at the feedback from a distance. Hold it at arm’s length, turn it around, and examine it. See if there is some truth in there that could be helpful to you. Keep that lesson and discard the rest. You really are in control of how you handle feedback.

Acknowledge what you need to acknowledge. A while ago, I was in a supermarket parking lot and inadvertently cut off another driver. I happened to be in a very mellow mood at that moment. So when the other driver confronted me and said, “Hey, you cut me off there,” I was able to reply, “Yes, you are absolutely right. I didn’t mean to and I am really sorry.” In this case, the tension immediately drained out of the situation. The other person looked a little shocked and simply said: “OK, thank you,” and walked off. If you are human you are going to make mistakes, whether you are a team member or a team leader. Forgive yourself and see the learning for what it is: a gift.

Being a leader can be rewarding and challenging at the same time. To learn more about new manager leadership development, take a look at Gillespie Nimble!