<02/03/13 Edited for clarity>

What do you do when you are told an idea you had, something you’ve done, or a decision you made was wrong?  Maybe someone told you your idea was not heading in a direction they would have taken? What if your boss tells you you made a choice that they would not have made? What do you do when someone tells you an idea you had, or something you’ve done, or a decision you’ve made is not the direction they would have taken, or not the choice they would have made? Based on my experience, most people do one of two things.

1. They get defeated. They take the criticism to heart and shut down. They drop their idea, or work to undo the work they’ve done. Each time they do this, it destroys a little bit of their will to make decisions for themselves.

This can be somewhat the fault of the person giving the feedback, but it is mostly the fault of the person who let themselves be defeated so easily.


2. They realize that at the end of the conversation, when the smoke clears, that nothing changed. If your supervisor tells you they wouldn’t have done things the way you did, but then DOESN’T tell you to stop, or to undo what you did, who won?  You did!  If you feel strongly that you are doing things the right way, you get to keep doing the right thing.

An even better option (I know, I know, I said there were only two, but it’s my blog), is to win like option two, and then think about the feedback you got. Why did someone tell you they didn’t like your idea?  Could you have communicated it in a better way?  Did you leave out key pieces of information that would have made your idea or decision more palatable to your audience?  Do you need to even share your ideas with that person in the future?

I have watched too many people take negative (non-constructive) feedback that included no consequences as a sign that they should stop thinking or doing like they did. Pay close attention. Even if you feel scolded, if you weren’t told to stop, you just won.

If you really want to do the best you can, you should be looking for whatever feedback you can get. For more on this, please read Keith Klain’s excellent post on scrutiny.