Reality TV illustrates a powerful sense of self and confidence. I watch American Idol and So You Think You Can Dance in amazement and puzzlement. Contestants who felt they had exceptional ability are yet stunned when turned away from the show. Did these people have no one to tell them of the disparity between their competency and the expertise required to compete at a new level. Did the contestants have selective hearing and ignore feedback? I don’t know the answer and while I marvel at this entertainment, it’s not funny or entertaining in business. You have seen it; the presentation that is so awful and yet the presenter seems unaware of the catastrophic impact. It’s painful to see. Yet, it seems to happen often enough to make a sane person ask the question, is there a chance that I do the same? Am I a hot mess?
It is safe to assume for all for all of us, there are things we do not excel at. We are not perfect. There are some things you can’t do as well as others. What’s important is the degree to which we recognize this and how we handle our personal blind spots. Blind spots are shortcomings that are not readily to us, apparent but can cause damage. Trust me on this, after several expensive brake replacements, when it was suggested the culprit could possibly be my lack of downshifting I happily took the correction. Constructive feedback is tricky. You don’t want to be called out on every flaw and mistake imaginable, yikes, I would be hard pressed to get out of bed in the mornings knowing my days would be subject to such scrutiny all in the name of constructive criticism. Nope, I am talking things that will inhibit your overall success.
Let’s get down to business. What happens with a time out in a basketball game. The coach will give instructions, corrections and a strategy. You can think of it feedback the same way. It’s instructions, strategy and corrections to build your success. Why is it so hard? The basketball team has a trusted and respected coach. So, why do we resist to advice and counsel from those we trust and respect?
Are there things people are trying to tell you that you ignore because perhaps you have not stopped to recognize their expertise in a certain area? Are there people trying to tell you things because they do have your success in mind and want to support you? Are you fighting the coaching? More importantly, are you fighting the coaching to your own detriment?
When people have expertise and success in a field you do not, it is very possible the coaching they provide is credible. Rather than spending time justifying your position or why you did what you did, wouldn’t the time be better spent listening? It’s natural to be defensive and to explain behavior but not to the degree you ignore the coaching. If the feedback is, “you rushed the end of your presentation,” rather than try to say, it’s OK, no one noticed you might explain you had to rush to the restroom. The more productive conversation is to ask, what would you do in this situation. Don’t get yourself so caught up in defending a situation that you yourself forget it wasn’t the best outcome. Take the coaching.
Consider this. Are the coach’s credentials greater than yours? Is the coach committed to your success? It’s really rather simple, what makes it hard is the natural urge to defend. I had a small team of people I conferred with as I planned my blog. It got ugly in a discussion about photographs. I had a good camera, I got some decent shots (in my mind.) I was embarrassing resistant to advice until the moment I realized the people advising were committed to my success. As for credentials, while no had a blog, the one who suggested a professional photographer runs the digital presence for a large company. I did try to do a photo shot which was a hot mess, apologized for my tirades, thanked them for their patience and commitment and found an awesome photographer to support the vision.
Constructive feedback is an art. To be able to give and take it, comes with practice. Many people avoid these meaningful conversations in an act of self-preservation. Accepting constructive feedback takes strength of character, a desire to be better and to do better. No one wants to be an epic failure. But, often, no one acknowledges how hard it is to take the feedback. It takes practice and trust. Over time, it gets easier as you get better.