by Steve Adubato, PhD
A big part of leadership involves coaching and mentoring. It's not enough that you as the leader achieve reach your potential. You have a responsibility to do everything possible to help those around you do the same thing. However, coaching and mentoring is a two-way street.
Too often some of the best coaching advice offered in the workplace is either ignored, rejected or resented by employees, but it doesn't have to be this way. Reaching your professional potential in any organization is largely about the attitude and perspective you have when it comes to receiving feedback.
With this in mind, consider the following tips:
--Don't be so defensive. Nobody's perfect nor is that the objective. Consider your mentor's feedback an opportunity to learn something new. Maybe it is time to do an inventory. Ask yourself why you are so thin-skinned. If it's because your mom or dad didn't give you enough praise when you were a kid, while that's really said, you really can't bring this into the workplace. It's unprofessional. Remember, those who give you constructive feedback actually care enough about you to do it. Feedback is only seen as a bad thing if you choose to see it that way.
--Your attitude and how you communicate when getting feedback will have a great impact on your reputation in the organization. If you want to move forward and gain new responsibilities and the trust of others, realize that rejecting constructive feedback could be detrimental to your career.
--Ask for specifics. Sometimes coaches and mentors give feedback that is too vague, such as, "Mary, you're going to have to do a better job on project X." The fact is you can't do much with this information. Take the initiative as a mentee and ask, "Bob, I appreciate your feedback, but could you be more specific? What exactly needs to be improved?" Put the responsibility on the coach or mentor to provide the details that you'll need to improve your performance. If you don't, then you are as much at fault as the person giving the feedback.
--Be REALLY proactive and don't wait until someone comes to you with feedback. Ask to sit down and talk about your performance. Go in with a short list of probing, open-ended questions that will help you gauge how you are doing. Consider these; "Jane, I would appreciate knowing exactly what you like and don't like about the Jones report I submitted last week." If Jane balks or says it was, "fine," be prepared to get even more specific; "I appreciate that, Jane, but I'd like to know how you felt about my recommendation to move forward on…" Not only will this communication approach get you valuable feedback, it will also send a message that you take your own professional development seriously and will demonstrate your leadership potential.
--Fight the urge to interrupt when receiving feedback or get stuck on a point that you disagree with. When you break this rule, you may miss important opportunities.
--Don't debate or argue unless it is a matter of strong personal or ethical convictions. Your mentor sometimes just sees things differently or wants you to perform in a certain way. You can disagree, but in the end unless you really feel that taking this advice will have an adverse impact on you and/or the organization, you should consider accepting it. Further, learn to compromise. If someone gives you feedback that you don't TOTALLY agree with, find a part of the feedback that you feel comfortable with and go with it.