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7 tips for turning feedback into success

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"Dear HR, how can I handle feedback and get better at addressing constructive criticism?"

What’s the right way to respond to feedback — and how can you use it to grow? Maria Babicz, a Senior Director of Human Resources, answers this month’s top question for Dear HR.

We all want to learn, develop and grow. That’s why I often advise everyone to embrace transparent feedback — it’s the key to highlighting areas for improvement while acknowledging our strengths. Personally, I believe that receiving honest feedback really can help us dare for better in everything that we do. After all, it’s not just about the feedback itself — it’s also how we receive and act upon it that paves the way for growth.

Here are the seven tips I often share when people ask me about how to receive feedback and how to use that input for growth.

Stay open-minded

Be receptive to the feedback that is being shared. Remember: Honest conversations will genuinely help you grow. It’s important to listen actively. Although this may be hard, pay full attention without interrupting. You can also ask for clarification to better understand the feedback. For example, “Could you give me an example of when you observed this behavior?” An extra step that can help: Consider the perspective of the person providing feedback. This can create room for empathy, honesty and a clear path forward.

OK, but what if I don’t agree?

It’s still important to handle feedback constructively. Take a moment to compose yourself before responding. Understand what it is that you disagree with — is there a disconnect on expectations, perceptions, emotions or facts? Don’t hesitate to ask for more details to understand the person’s perspective better. For example, “I appreciate your feedback. Can you provide more context or examples to help me understand it better?” Asking specific questions will empower you to receive clearer direction and find common ground.

Take time to reflect to find your next step

Think about how the feedback fits with your own observations and experiences. What rings true for you? Try to be objective; analyzing your behaviors can help you identify any underlying issues. Over time, look for patterns or recurring themes in feedback. If multiple people have said similar things, it may highlight areas that need attention. If different groups provide different feedback, consider underlying reasons for these differences.

Don’t forget about your strengths

Recognize both your strengths and your weaknesses. While feedback may highlight areas for improvement, it’s essential to acknowledge your strengths as well. You don’t want to stop doing what you are doing right. You can ask, “What am I doing well, and what should I continue doing?” Feedback should always encourage you to continue what works.

Prioritize effectively for the most impact

Not all evaluations require equal attention. Prioritize the areas that will have the most significant impact on your goals or those that align with your long-term development plan. During feedback conversations, you can ask questions that will help you prioritize, such as, “If I were to pick one or two areas to focus on, which would make the biggest difference?” Set clear and achievable goals for improvement based on what you hear.

Develop a concrete professional plan

Outline the steps you will take. Make sure your plan is realistic and includes a timeline. If there are specific skills or knowledge areas you need to develop, seek out additional resources such as books, courses or mentors. Identify people who are doing well in areas in which you’d like to improve and seek opportunities to observe them in action and learn from them.

Implement changes — and continue to learn

Becoming better at handling feedback takes practice. The beauty of performance reviews is that you can continually ask for and receive them throughout the year. Solicit follow-up feedback by periodically checking in with those who provided feedback to see if they’ve noticed any positive changes. And you can ask for opinions from people other than just your manager, which will allow you not only to practice ways to handle feedback, but also to course-correct and monitor your progress during the year.

Did you know?

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