How you handle negative feedback can determine your future success

Sep 01, 2022
how you can choose to deal with negative feedback

Do you know why observational comedy works?

As you may have heard, “it’s funny because it’s true”.

However, feedback is different.

The most valuable personalised and constructive comments you receive can also be the hardest to accept.

You know, because “the truth hurts”.

That’s a shame because the more willing you are to listen to negative feedback, the more likely it is that you will uncover a blind spot that is working against you.  

For help with handling negative feedback, take a listen to episode 103 of CRE Success: The Podcast.

You can also read a transcript of the interview portion of the show below.

Interview transcript:

WS: What helped you to grow in your leadership abilities? And then let's help the listeners and myself do the same.

DK: I think one thing that helped me grow, one point in time, in particular, was when I was put through a leadership assessment which included a 360. A 360 is a process that sometimes corporates do, where they'll ask your peers, people above you, people below you, and people external to the organization, just to provide some feedback about how they perceive you. And I got some pretty brutal feedback at that moment that included that I was pretty bad-tempered and that I was seen as arrogant. That was a bit of a wake-up call for me that if that's the way people saw me, then perhaps I needed to make some changes. And I did. And once I started focusing more on those areas, I started to do a lot better with my interpersonal skills, with leading others, helping them be better and also being a more effective leader. And I was continually given more responsibility up to the point where I was leading a business for 300 people. So, that was a real inflection point for me, understanding what my blind spots were and actually getting to work on them. I think if you're willing to do a little bit of introspection or if someone comes and hits you in the head like they did with me and tells you exactly what's wrong with you - although they didn't tell me everything, they told me a few things - then, that can be a really great opportunity for you to work on some things that can help you be the best leader that you can be so you can help others to be the best that they can be.

WS: Wow. That's hard to hear, you receiving that feedback. I wonder, was that anonymous or was it not? How many people would that have been?

DK: It was anonymous feedback, and I'm probably being a little bit hard on myself as I'm recounting the story now. There were two consistent things that came through that would say something like - what's something that Darren needs to work on? And maybe the answer was - his temper? Other people might have said - "No, he's good but he knows he's good." That's basically arrogance. So, that was something that I needed to dial back a bit. Probably the three A's that I need to work on was my arrogance, it was my anger management, but also alcohol. But that one about the alcohol, I had to learn the hard way about my drinking and I don't drink anymore. I have been without alcohol for two years. so it was kind of hard to see, but it was anonymous as well. So, I couldn't actually track down the people that say, "I can't believe that you said this". They were protected by the process.

WS: That's great. It's great that you were able to receive that feedback and do something about it. That it was constructive and you do better. It helps you to change. Speak to just receiving that. I can see many people being very angry, receiving feedback like that. Speak to being able to be willing and humble, I guess, which is so difficult to hear things like that. How are you able to do that at that time?

DK: It's very difficult to argue with what's there in black and white and it's coming from a range of sources. So, I think you need to be willing to accept it, and probably the company - I can't remember exactly how they sort of prepared us for the feedback - but they probably let us know that - how you're gonna see some things in this report, they probably don't put you in the most flattering light, be open and receptive to that and be prepared for it. And certainly, my 360, as I took on more leadership responsibility, I saw way more brutal 360s than mine was. So, I've seen some shockers. So, it wasn't really that bad. I took it okay, I took it on board. I saw it as a learning and growth opportunity. And what was really good was when I did another 360 a few years later when I had moved organizations and looking at those key areas, when it came to anger management, for example, the worst thing that somebody said was - we can tell when he's upset because of the look on his face. And so, okay, well, that's real progress because they don't say that I'm like an anger management crazy person, for lack of a better term. Just that we can see when he's upset and I'm like, well, I'm a human, right? If I'm not throwing things and yelling or swearing or anything, but you can just see on my face that I'm a little bit uncomfortable with what's going on, then I've made real progress from where I was. I was happy to hear that.

WS: Yeah, it's incredible. I love the 360 thought process and creating that path for other people around you to provide feedback, could be so helpful. Speak to now helping us create an environment like that, where other people were helping other people on the team succeed and we're just leading in that way. How do you advise people to do that now and maybe some issues that you see often in our space?

DK: I think we don't always have the opportunity to have a 360 assessment done. But given we spend a bit of time talking about that, I would say one thing that you can do is just have a think about - how is it that others are seeing me? And what is it that they're likely to advise me to do more of, to do less of, to start doing, to stop doing? So, that simple framework of "more, less, start, stop" and thinking about the type of advice that you'd be getting from someone who has your best interests at heart can be some good things to think about. Now, you may not be able to pick up all the things that they may say but if you start thinking about other people's perceptions of you, that's going to be a good place to start. At the same time, leadership is not a popularity contest. So, I don't think that you should be necessarily trying to do things that are gonna make you well-liked. It's more about being respected and taking on the responsibility of the role. And one problem that I've identified in commercial real estate - but I think it's a common problem throughout a lot of industries, particularly sales-based industries - is that a lot of people who are put into leadership positions are given that responsibility as a reward for their high performance as opposed to them showing an inclination towards wanting to take on that responsibility or demonstrating a capability to be able to perform in that role. And I think often people take on the role because they think it's a bigger office, it's a bigger title, it's a bigger commission check or a profit share, and I've been here so many years, it's my right, that's the natural progression of things. But they don't necessarily stop and think - well, hang on, is this what I want? Is this what's best for me? Is this what's best for the people around me? And I think if you're going into a leadership role, one thing that you can do, whether you think you're a natural leader or not, is just to make the decision that I'm gonna take this responsibility seriously and I'm gonna do some work to be the best leader that I can be because a lot of the attributes of a good leader are really just skills that can be learned and improved on. I think making the decision to be the best leader that you can be and to have a think about how it is you're perceived are some things that you can do in order to give yourself the best shot at being effective in a role that requires leadership.

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