Accepting feedback in your accounting job can be difficult. Some of us are able to nod agreeably, while others of us become defensive. But feedback can be key to growing your skill set and advancing your career. In fact, the number one reason that new hires fail is a lack of coachability. Here’s how to accept constructive criticism and learn from it.
Tip 1: Stop, Drop and Roll
The fire that you’re putting out in this case, is your innate defensive reaction. Realize that if your manager is giving you feedback, he or she is interested in your professional growth. By simply reframing how you see your manager’s intention, you’ll be able to stop yourself from a negative response. There’s a reason he/she is telling you this, and it’s not to tear you down, even if it might feel that way initially.
Resource: Are you the person giving the feedback? Here are some tips on how to make it a productive experience for all parties.
Tip 2: Listen to Understand, Not Reply
Listen, really listen, to what the person is saying. Don’t start formulating your answer in the middle of their feedback. The benefits of feedback include improving your skills, your work product, or even the relationships you have with your team. The more carefully you listen, the more benefit you’ll derive. And remember, there may be times you’ll get feedback from someone you don’t fully respect. At this point, consider the words, not the source – there may still be value you can learn from.
Tip 3: Clarify the Message
Make sure you truly understand what your manager or peer is actually saying, “My understanding is that you would like more detailed monthly reports. Is this correct?” Don’t hesitate to ask clarifying questions that drill down into your manager’s expectations. Questions that identify whether the feedback is based on an isolated event, or ongoing concern are reasonable, as are queries that ask for help devising a solution.
For example, perhaps you led a meeting for the first time and it didn’t go as smoothly as planned, (maybe someone disagreed with your point of view and things got a bit heated). During a debrief with your manager you might ask for feedback by saying, “I’d love to hear your ideas on how to manage a situation like that in the future.” Remember, questions should be asked in a tone that seeks to understand (i.e. not defensive). And while it might be a stretch, it’s not unreasonable to thank the person for offering the constructive criticism.
Resource: For tips on how to clarify feedback read this article.
Tip 4: Follow Up
At the end of the discussion request time for a follow-up meeting. This is particularly important if it’s a key issue that’s been brought to your attention. By requesting a follow-up meeting, you show that you are interested in growing and learning – two traits that any manager looks for. More importantly, it gives you time to process what you’ve been told and brainstorm possible solutions (if you haven’t explored solutions collaboratively with your manager or peer already).
Tip 5: Consider Requesting Feedback
Most of us wait for feedback during our annual performance review. A better strategy is to openly seek out your manager’s feedback each month, or after a particular initiative is completed. This allows you to receive feedback from a place of readiness and shows that you’re coachable. And if you’re starting out at a new company, don’t wait long to check in with your new manager. You want to ensure you’re meeting expectations and fitting into the company culture. Consider, as well, getting feedback from a variety of sources such as team members or indirect supervisors to keep the perspective balanced.
Learning how to take constructive criticism is an important part of professional growth. Listen to understand, not just to reply. Curb your initial defensive response. Know that feedback can be a gift. Seek it out more often than just your annual performance review. Coachability is an integral part of any employee’s success. Constructive feedback can help you build better relationships, improve your skill set and fast-track your career.
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