Opportunity Creator: Feedback

Opportunity Creator: Feedback
Photo by rawpixel on Unsplash

What if you knew exactly what you needed to do to get that promotion you're chasing?

What if you knew what to do to become the best at what you do? 

Isn't that the type of information most people would kill for?


One of the most important things I learned at my first "corporate" job was to seek feedback. I had an amazing manager who understood the importance of feedback for career advancement. And she made sure that I never took it for granted by reminding me over and over again that "feedback is a gift."

But she isn't the only one who considers feedback a gift. Cal Newport, author of So Good They Can't Ignore You: Why Skills Trump Passion in the Quest for Work You Love, writes about the importance of "embracing honest feedback—even if it destroys what you thought was good" to make progress in your career. He goes on to share the story of Alex Berger, a successful TV writer, who was "humiliated" by the writing he submitted for review early in his career, but "recognizes that the continuous and harsh feedback he received accelerated the growth of his ability." 

Feedback is the breakfast of champions.
— Ken Blanchard

In the beginning, Alex had no idea what these producers were looking for in a TV script. But thanks to the feedback he was getting, he was able to give them exactly what they wanted only a few years into his career. Now consider that you may be doing something that's keeping you from advancing in your career. But no one has ever told you about it. Don't you want to know now what it is, so you can make changes and get on a faster track to reach your goals?


As mentioned in Alex's story, feedback isn't always the most fun thing in the world to get. It can feel both humiliating and harsh, especially when it's unexpected. There's nothing as jolting as when your boss makes a comment about something you need to improve. Or worse, he sits you down to talk about a task or project where you failed. 

First, you're angry or resentful that your hard work isn't being appreciated. It feels like all they do is criticize you for small mistakes, instead of recognizing that you do great work. Then maybe you start to doubt your abilities. What if you're just not good at this job? What if you're not good enough to get that promotion you've hoped for?


Instead of heading down a rabbit hole of anger or doubt, you can flip the switch on how you receive feedback. You can learn to benefit from the feedback you receive, instead of letting your reaction to it take over. And that starts by understanding how feedback really affects you.


According to recent neuroscience research, "our brains and bodies can respond to certain interpersonal situations the same way we react to literal threats to our physical safety. Psychologists refer to these experiences as 'social threats.'" So your reaction to be angry or upset is completely normal. Your brain is trying to protect you, to warn you about a potential threat. Understanding that this is what your brain is doing, you can start to move past your initial reaction of being threatened and start to process the feedback you've received.


To benefit from the feedback you're processing, you need to see it in a positive light. If you think of feedback as strictly criticism and a way for people to be jerks, then you won't gain anything from it. But if, instead, you view feedback as an opportunity to learn and improve, you have a chance to pull value from it. Remember Alex's story. Sure, at first he was embarrassed about receiving feedback, but it was that feedback that sped up his success as a TV writer.

Better yet, view feedback for what it is: a career advantage you can give yourself. Others tend to focus on working hard and (aimlessly) hope that they're doing what they need to reach their goals. Asking for and receiving feedback is uncomfortable, so most people avoid it. You, on the other hand, will focus on receiving all the feedback you can get to ensure that you're on the path to reaching your goals.


If you want to get better at receiving feedback, then you might try what Buffer suggests: ask for feedback often. Don't let it catch you off guard. Be proactive about asking for feedback. Make it a habit. The more feedback you receive, the easier it will get to move past your initial reaction and move towards learning from it. 

So this week, why not try asking for feedback. This could be feedback from your manager, your colleagues or mentors. You might be surprised how insightful your co-workers can be when you ask them to genuinely share their perspective with you. To make it easier, be sure that you ask someone you feel comfortable with, that you trust. And don't be this guy...



When asking for feedback, start by putting the other person at ease. With your boss, let him/her know that you are dedicated to doing well in your job and that you'd like some feedback on what you could be doing to make his or her job easier. If you put it in the perspective that you're trying to help them, they'll be less likely to feel uncomfortable about providing feedback.

With your colleagues or mentors, choose a location where they'll be at ease. Take them to lunch or for coffee and let them know that you'd love to get their advice on some questions you have about work. By framing it as asking for advice instead of feedback, they'll be more inclined to share without feeling like they'll offend you in any way.

Then put on your big girl panties or big boy boxers (or boxer-briefs) because even when you're prepared to receive feedback, it's not easy. Just remember that the information you get will help you move forward in your career. Also, keep in mind that you chose this person because you know they want to honestly help you succeed. 

Now stand tall and go set something setup with your boss, co-workers or mentors. Don't let fear keep you from using feedback as an advantage in building a career you love.

Who are you going to reach out to?