Accepting Feedback

“Am I flexible enough to change my mind and accept feedback?”

This was a question in my The Daily Stoic Journal that’s had me thinking.  It couldn’t have come at a more crucial time in our business.  We are in the middle of making considerable changes and needing to re-think where we are and where we’re going.   In the process, we’re asking a lot of questions that are uncomfortable as they point out our deficiencies in our processes and business.  My initial response is to become defensive and to defend what we’ve done and why we’ve done it.  As we go through this difficult process, I noticed that for every question we ask we have an excuse, or a reason, or a story why that thing was done a certain way or why it was a sacred cow that was beyond questioning.  It’s a bit uncomfortable.

As I’ve reflected on this, I’ve asked myself: “Am I flexible enough to change my mind and accept feedback?”  On the surface, I want to say, “Of course I am. I’m an intelligent guy, but I’m always willing to hear other opinions.” Deep down, however, I tend to think I’m right and judge feedback to either fit or not fit, my view of the world.  If it doesn’t fit, we excuse it as not credible.

Obviously, the other side is that not all feedback is credible.  Not everyone who gives us advice should be listened to.  Sometimes, you have to ignore the noise and press on.   No one ever makes a statue for a critic.  People who say, “It can’t be done,” should get out of the way of those doing it.  Use whichever cliché you choose, but the fact is not all criticism and feedback is good feedback.

Knowing when to do which thing, when to listen and not listen, when to change and not change comes down to three key skills:

  • Having discernment to judge what is valuable feedback

Does this come from someone I want to (and should) listen to?  Does this person giving me feedback have my best interests at heart or do they have their own agenda? Is what they are saying important enough for me to listen to?

  • Having the humility to accept the feedback

Hearing something that we don’t want to hear or having someone tell us something we don’t want to have told can be painful.  It’s like someone telling you that your baby is ugly.  It’s hard to hear and hard to process without becoming defensive (even if your baby IS ugly).  We’re all married to the story of why things are how they are.   We’re all emotionally tied to that story and don’t want anyone to tell us it’s bullshit (even if it is).  Humility means, at its core, the ability to be teachable.  It’s the ability to step back from our story and learn and realize there may be another way…  Maybe even a better way.

  • Having the discipline to change what needs to be changed

Once we have accepted that there are things that can be done differently or need to be done differently, then we need to do them.  This may be the hardest step.  Many people know they need to lose weight. They accept that they should, but they don’t have the discipline to make it happen.   This is true in many areas of our lives.   Taking feedback and then doing something about it…. now that is key.  Can we put together the plan, the resources, the team, and then execute?

Once again, contemplation and journaling have helped me to understand my own weaknesses, my own bullshit stories, and my own hang-ups.  Life is about self-evaluation and getting better.   It’s time for me to be willing to accept critical feedback, to be able to be flexible enough to change my mind and to execute the changes that can take our business to the next level.

Living Every Minute

Dr. Tim

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