Constructive Criticism? Focus on the Constructive part!

You have to admit it—nobody is perfect. Getting a compliment can make you feel good and motivated to do more, but criticism, if given and received properly, can help you do your job and serve your clients better, according to an article in Lifehacker.  It can take you to the next level.

Your immediate reaction to criticism may be to reject it and become defensive. No one likes to be criticized and oftentimes our response is the equivalent of a mental kneejerk. The downside of ignoring criticism is that you never improve. As time goes on your mistakes and missteps may add up, reflect poorly on you, resulting in losing a job or clients.

Getting compliments is a good thing as it indicates that you are doing good work, but if that is all the feedback you get, you may not be able to achieve great things.  Your personal process, the why and how you do what you do personally and professionally makes you unique.  When your process is good and you’re working towards great process clients, and others notice.

It’s a strange concept but constructive criticism can be more valuable than a compliment.  If you actively seek constructive criticism, you’ll be better able to improve your overall performance.  This feedback allows you to more objectively evaluate the way you work.  If you heed constructive criticism you could end bad practices about which you might not have been aware.

How do you constructively pursue criticism? After you’ve engaged in a negotiation or mediation ask a colleague or your client if they thought something could’ve been done better and ask them to be specific.  Many of us are afraid to hurt others’ feelings so what you get back may not be the unvarnished truth, but it still may be of value.

Take control of the process by choosing to speak with people you respect and who have insight because of their experience.  Ideally, you’ll select someone who is honest and knowledgeable.  Practice taking the constructive criticism with patience and an open mind. Actively listen. Ask follow-up questions to clarify and ask for specific ways to improve.  Get as many perspectives as possible to get a better picture of what you need to work on to improve yourself and reach your career goals.

When?  The sooner you get feedback the better.  Being swift about obtaining constructive feedback will make it easier to remember what you did and take concrete steps to better next time.  Getting criticism about something you did a month ago likely won’t be of maximum value.

Whom? Everyone can continue to improve from feedback, especially constructive feedback. No matter what your job, here’s hoping your growth is meaningful and steady.