Mistakes New Leaders Make: Taking Feedback Personally

Justin Clark, MBA

 This twelve week series is a collection of my personal experiences as a new leader over the past three years. These are not only mistakes that I have made, but that I continue to make at times. I hope that by sharing my experiences, readers will be able to navigate their role as a leader more skillfully. 

What are the barriers to doing this?

We are all human. And to some degree, that means that we all have a tendency to take criticism personally. Our response to criticism is often times emotional and not rational. We want to believe that criticism is an indication of a deeper rooted personal perception held by the person who is providing us feedback. This allows us to manipulate situations into being about “us” and not about the actual issue at hand.

What is the case for doing it anyway?

We continue to circle back to the idea of producing results. As leaders, this is our charge. If we are sincere about that, then we must acknowledge that the best results are achieved through a process that is not always easy or comfortable. We must be willing to accept feedback, even when it is painful, for what it is. It is a means to a better result. Growing thick skin and welcoming critical feedback is a key to being a successful leader.

How can you do it?

1.  Acknowledge that our goal is to produce results.

2.  Understand that you might not always be right.

3. Embrace colleagues and solicit their feedback.

4. Accept feedback for what it is.

How does growing thick skin help you as a leader?

One Response to “Mistakes New Leaders Make: Taking Feedback Personally”

Kendall L. Stewart May 15th, 2014 at 9:29 pm

As you have pointed out, the best leaders focus on results instead of pleasing others, remaining comfortable or telling others what they want to hear. When you set some organizational result as your goal and behave accordingly, you invite friendly (and unfriendly) fire. If you cannot quickly learn to press on in spite of this criticism, you will fail as a leader. You will never learn to play the guitar if you are unwilling to grow some callouses on your fingers.

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