I’ve been called many names throughout my career. Having led several organizations through change, I’m very used to facing resistance. And, more often than not, people tend to express resistance with not-so-kind words. Yet, I can’t remember someone calling me arrogant before.

In this particular occasion, someone was telling me something that I might’ve been missing.

And, because it somehow hurt, it meant he was right. It made me think about all the times, consciously or not, I might have behaved like an “arrogant prick.” And reflecting on the fact that it is not what we do, but how we make people feel, that matters. That’s the lesson.

Rather than thinking of the anonymous sender as a coward, I started feeling empathy. Someone felt hurt because something I did or said. And, most probably, they felt intimidated to say it face to face. Think of feedback as a way to improve. When you stop convincing yourself that others are wrong, that’s when feedback becomes a valuable gift.

Don’t Look for Approval, Look for Improvement

“Be patient with yourself. Self-growth is tender, it’s holy ground. There’s no greater investment.”—Steven Covey

If it doesn’t “hurt” it isn’t feedback. I’m not a masochist by any means; everyone who’s truly committed to self-development knows that growth doesn’t come without pain.

I’ve seen lots of people eager to get feedback. But most seem to seek approval or recognition, rather than personal growth. They are actually looking for someone—their bosses, peers, etc.—to tell them how well they are doing or what a great professional they are.

While positive reinforcement is always needed and welcome, growing via feedback is what counts. Look for feedback that will make you grow rather than just inflate your ego. Ask people to help you stretch beyond your comfort zone. It might be uncomfortable for them, too. The mutual learning experience is worth the “pain.”

There’s No Such Thing as Negative Feedback

Labeling things as good or bad never helps. And that’s even truer with feedback. It’s how we react to it and what we do with it that can turn it into positive or negative.

Feedback is just feedback. Learn to receive it as a surprise gift. You don’t need to put much thinking when buying someone a gift card; it’s an easy way out. Buying a gift is different: it’s more challenging and interesting. It says a lot about the giver and, most importantly, what they think of you. Regardless if you like a surprise gift or not, what you receive is a message from the giver. A surprise gift unveils a part of you that is visible to others but not necessarily to you.

Feedback Helps Us Stretch Beyond Our Comfort Zone

1. Avoid sugarcoating: If you want someone to improve, focus solely on what you want them to improve upon. Be clear and candid. People are not stupid. When you mix praises with areas of improvement, they’ll suspect you are sugarcoating. Not being 100% honest can hurt trust.

2. Reciprocal feedback can be tricky: Providing and receiving feedback at the same time can confuse both parties. If you are given feedback, listen. If you have something to say to that person, wait for another occasion. Providing feedback once you’ve received yours could be perceived as being defensive and, in most cases, that’s actually true.

3. “What can I do better?”: For me this simple question captures everything. It sends a clear message that you are interested in improving but also lets the feedback provider realize that you are open to constructive criticism. It builds a safe space for candid dialogue.

4. Ongoing feedback rules: Asking or providing feedback on the go is more effective than structured feedback. Both parties will connect to the issue more easily. Addressing something that happened recently is more effective than discussing an issue that’s six months old. It also feels more casual and less threatening. When ongoing feedback becomes part of an organizational culture, it feels more natural and human.


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About the Book

A Book That Wants to Make You Uncomfortable: Stretch for Change

Stretch for Change, a new book by author Gustavo Razzetti, addresses a paradox: we all want to change but we have a hard time changing.

Change is threatening for most of us. The good news is that we can prepare for it. Just as we train our bodies to be fitter, we can train our mindsets and behaviors. It’s not easy, but it’s worth the effort.

Razzetti, a sought-after expert on change leadership, provides a pathway to help readers achieve their dreams and join the world of innovators. In his capacity advising CEOs of everything from startups to Fortune 500 companies, Razzetti has led and transformed organizations for over twenty years. https://medium.com/@GusRazzetti

In inspiring, easy-to-understand language, the book offers a simple framework and many exercises to transform our approach to change.

The book is now available on Amazon.