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Thought Leadership Series by the Professor: Receiving Criticism

By: John Regan

One of the true challenges in life is the realization that we make mistakes and at times fall short of our goals. During these times, we may receive criticism. Most of this criticism is constructive – coming from people who truly want us to succeed. However, sometimes criticism may be given without pure intentions. Regardless of the intent, we can allow criticism to accelerate our growth and drive us to our results.

Ralph Waldo Emerson had it right when he said: “Let me never fall into the vulgar mistake of dreaming that I am persecuted whenever I am contradicted.”

Here at Keeley Companies, we've developed a strategic process for giving and receiving feedback and constructive criticism. Our Plus/Delta philosophy recognizes the positive feedback one deserves, as well as the areas that need improvement or change. When using this feedback process, the Keeley'n on the receiving end is only allowed to say "Thank you for your feedback," accepting both the pluses and the deltas.

When we receive criticism, here are some tips to utilize the feedback in order to accelerate your growth:

  • Realize that despite the intention of the giver, criticism can be used to improve.

  • Listen! What are the truths in the feedback? What aspects can we utilize to get better?

  • Ask questions that drive towards clarity of feedback. This is not a time to argue points, rather, a time to gain better understanding of the criticism.

  • Take notes. Writing down the feedback helps focus our attention on the truths and gives us time to breathe.

  • Be accountable. Failure is a normal part of the human condition. It’s uncomfortable, but we grow the most through failure when we hold ourselves accountable.

  • Respond appropriately. If there are changes necessary, communicate your intent to change and what steps will be taken to change future outcomes. As noted by author Marshall Goldsmith in the book “What got you here, won’t get you there” saying a simple “Thank you for the feedback” is a non-judgmental way to respond that leaves the relationship intact when receiving criticism.

What tips do you have for receiving criticism in a productive manner?

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