Aim for success, not perfection. Never give up your right to be wrong, because then you will lose the ability to learn new things and move forward with your life.
The ability to accept criticism is an essential skill in your academic, professional and personal growth. Plenty of it will come your way and if you choose to ignore it, you may miss valuable opportunities to learn. Criticism should not be viewed as a sign of failure but rather the opportunity to explore how you could do something differently or even better!
A colleague I mentor is coordinating a summer youth program for the first time. She recently shared with me how she is learning from the things that have not gone so well. Having the humility to accept that she has not done a perfect job the first time around has allowed her to “course correct”, making improvements as the program continues. Her ability to acknowledge what isn’t going well has empowered here to make adjustments to the program to ensure it is a quality program for the youth. If she let her ego get involved, she could easily blame her staff or the youth, and continue to repeat the same mistakes.
If we strive for perfection, and allow our egos to get involved, the ability to take criticism becomes very difficult. And since no one is perfect, perfection is not possible. The idea that we should know what to do [when we don’t] or do it perfectly is an obstacle to success. Harriet Braiker, psychologies and management consultant, said “Striving for excellence motivates you; striving for perfection is demoralizing.” I’m sure many of you have had this experience, when you thought you did something perfectly, only to find someone else had a different opinion. It hurt, but hopefully, provided a valuable lesson in humility. Criticism should not take away from what you did well but offer you insight into how you can do even better the next time around. Don’t allow pride or embarrassment to prevent you from being your best possible self.
Critical feedback is a tool I rely in my work as a trainer and facilitator. No matter how many times I’ve done training, or how many evaluations come back with positive notes, it is the critical feedback that I direct my attention to so I can improve. The positive feedback feels great and reassures me that the majority of the audience had a great experience, and I’m doing my job well. However, the critical feedback offers me insight into areas where I can improve. Whether the feedback is about the content or flow of the training, or my “style”, I take it in. Each time I lead a training, I’m able to make adjustments to the training material or timing, and even to my style so it is a fit for a more diverse audience.
Structured feedback is an easy method to receiving feedback, even if it is not within your comfort zone. What is it? It is an intentional process you set up in order to receive critical feedback. In my trainings, I use an evaluation. However, it is much my common for me to request direct feedback from training participants, colleagues and mentors. Unsure?
Here’s how you can get started:
1. First, select a peer or colleague whom you trust and respect and invite them to be your learning partner.
2. Share with your learning partner your concern, fears, and preferences for receiving feedback to determine a process of sharing critical feedback.
3. Identify key areas or goals you want to receive feedback on.
4. Set up times (milestones) for sharing your experiences and receiving feedback from your learning partner.
5. Take action on the feedback you receive, and then start at 3 again.
Similar to a mentoring relationship, a learning partnership requires two willing participants who share mutual respect and trust. Therefore, it is essential to the relationship and your own learning to respect the feedback you receive and trust that it is in your best interest.
Are you open to feedback?