When we were kids in school, there was a straightforward path set before us. We started a class, read the books, went to the lectures, did the homework, took the exam, and got the grade necessary to move on. All along the way, there were expected places where feedback on our performance and potential were given to us. The students who took the feedback as a lesson and incorporated those messages into their knowledge journey typically performed the best in the end. They were willing to adjust their journey, play to their learning style, and alter their methods of operation. In contrast, those who railed against the feedback and focused more on the negative emotions it invoked were hampered by not being able to take it in stride and move forward.
As professionals, we have more in common with our childhood selves than we might realize. There is still a path of growth in front of us, although it may not be quite as straightforward as it once was. We also might receive feedback at times that are unexpected or inconvenient. However, the point is that we must accept feedback whenever it is given and use it to our advantage. If we are to advance our careers, we cannot be tomorrow who we are today. Each of us has the opportunity to be better tomorrow.
I have discovered that there are two types of people when it comes to moving forward in career and life: growers and languishers. The former is able to move forward despite difficulties, and the latter gets mired in a moment, fixating on an issue and the emotional ties to it, which makes them unable to move on. From my experience in working with thousands of candidates, advising many businesses, mentoring dozens of employees and young people, and training many individuals in self-defense and human combat, I have seen one common trait that separates those who grow and flourish from those who hit a ceiling and stagnate.
The trait that I see in growers is that they receive all input and feedback as opportunity for growth. When given input, whether it is delivered in a gentle way or a harsh way, it is the receiver’s responsibility to view it not as criticism, but as an opportunity for learning and growth. Keep in mind that I am not saying all input is good input. Far from it! What I am saying is that input is a valuable tool for growth if we can set aside our price and ego, and, with an open mind, look for an opportunity for learning. I had a boss one time who had an abrasive style of leading and who often frustrated and angered me. However, when I was able to put my emotions and pride aside, I actually learned from him. I didn’t like how the message was delivered when he communicated his feedback to me, but it actually became valuable in that it enabled me to learn this message. I now remember this man fondly because I learned a lot from him.
Being able to set emotion aside and being open to accept feedback as an opportunity to grow and learn also opens the door for mentors to share with you and invest in you. Wise people tend to invest in things that provide returns. Mentors are no different: they look to help people who do something good with what they have been given.
In anything there can be a lesson, just as when we were in school. Even if you get feedback that completely misses the mark or angers you at first, you can view it through the lens of growth. Take a step back and think about how you can use that feedback to your advantage before you wrap your emotions around it. This will open the door to forward progress and will show others your potential and strengths. These are, after all, two of the keys to success in work and in life.
I’d love to hear your stories about how you have used feedback as opportunity for growth. Please share in the comments section below!
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Mark Whitman is the founder and CEO of TeamBuilder Search, a dynamic recruiting firm that specializes in digital marketing, digital transformation, and emerging technology. He is an energetic and fearless adventurer who loves working with other innovative, entrepreneurial-minded professionals. He also happens to be a Sport Jujitsu national champion who literally broke his face in competing for the gold medal in the world championship. To discuss your toughest hiring challenges with Mark, contact him here.