Modern law firms recognize the power of constructive feedback. It helps staff get and stay on track, which can be very motivating, resulting in increased satisfaction and productivity. I’ve previously shared best practices for giving feedback, but what about the other part of the equation?
The effectiveness of feedback is only as good as the person receiving it. That person has to be able to absorb and synthesize what is said and decide whether or not to change. Here are some best practices for when you’re on the receiving end of the feedback exchange.
1. Be Prepared
While being criticized is never fun, feedback is something we should willingly welcome in order to maximize our professional growth. Having the right mindset when receiving constructive feedback can significantly affect how the advice is received and whether it has any positive impact.
- Develop a growth mindset – focus on your ability to learn and grow and view feedback as an opportunity for improvement.
- Be self-aware – is your default reaction one of anger or tears? Do you tend to become argumentative when challenged? Are you apt to discount all feedback as invalid? When you’re cognizant of your natural responses and are familiar with the following best practices, you’re often able to make better choices in the moment.
2. Listen Openly
Admittedly a difficult thing to do, it’s important to listen to the feedback being given with an open mind. Be attentive to the other person and don’t get distracted by planning your reply.
What, exactly, is it that you should be listening for?
- Is what’s being said factor opinion? Differentiating facts from opinion will allow you to respond more effectively.
- Is what’s being said accurate? It’s possible that miscommunication has resulted in an erroneous perception.
- What’s the motive? If the person giving feedback is your supervisor, mentor, or someone whose opinion you value, you’ll likely want to pay close attention to that advice. They are motivated by wanting you to be your best. If the individual isn’t knowledgeable in your field or perhaps doesn’t have your best interests in mind, the feedback will be less valuable to you.
3. Control Your Defense Mechanism
It’s human nature to react defensively when we feel that we are being criticized, but if you can consider feedback objectively, you can gain valuable insight and really improve your skills.
- Remain calm, taking a few deep breathes to stay focused
- Concentrate on what is being said, not how. Try not to tune out the useful information that may be hidden in poorly presented feedback.
- Demonstrate an approachable attitude. The purpose of feedback is to improve ourselves, so it should be welcomed. If you become defensive or angry, not only will you be less open to learning, but your mentor or colleagues will be less likely to provide valuable feedback in the future.
4. Seek Clarity and Perspective
It’s often said that there are three sides to every story, so it’s important that both parties are on the same page.
Ask your critic to repeat her comments, then repeat them back, to make sure that you’ve understood them. Ask for specific examples so that you can better understand where she’s coming from. It’s possible that the feedback is based on a misunderstanding or a different perspective.
Whether you agree with the feedback or not, it’s smart to phrase your response as being “from (your) perspective.” This acknowledges the fact that the two parties may be approaching the situation from very different points of view, but that you’re open to considering the other’s position.
Receiving feedback, whether you’ve invited it or not, puts you in a place of real vulnerability. But, if you can set aside your gut reaction and focus on the feedback itself, you can derive real value, learn from it, and continuously grow professionally.
Director, Web and Online Marketing Services
American Academy of Estate Planning Attorneys, Inc.
9444 Balboa Avenue, Suite 300
San Diego, California 92123
Phone: (800) 846-1555
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