What you can learn from positive feedback

Receiving positive feedback may seem straightforward; isn’t being recognized for your efforts always a good thing? However, some people may have a harder time than others accepting praise. You may be constantly striving for perfection and focused on what you perceive as holes and flaws in your performance, however small. Being the center of attention may make you feel uncomfortable and encourage you to downplay your performance. Alternatively, you may accept recognition as a sign that you have reached your peak performance, leading you to stop exercising and improving your strengths. These tips will help you accept recognition appropriately, while gathering valuable information to help identify and enhance your strengths.


Why is it important to learn how to accept positive feedback well?


Positive feedback is not just a compliment on a job well done, when analyzed correctly it can help you identify your strengths. Research by Zenger Folkman has revealed that 70-80% of employees and leaders reap greater benefits from improving their strengths versus weaknesses. Knowing what your strengths are can be the first step in taking your career to the next level.

Even if you believe you already know what your strengths are, they may differ from how your manager perceives your performance. Good managers utilize their employees’ strengths by giving them tasks they feel will be best suited to their skill set and providing opportunities for growth. Analyzing the positive feedback your manager gives you will help you to better understand what assignments you may expect in the future and what career track you are heading towards. If you’re happy with the direction you’re heading in that’s great, but if your career track is different from what you envision yourself doing down the line it’s important to speak up and make adjustments.  

For example, you may be excellent at analyzing data and making spreadsheets but you may secretly find it tedious or feel working in sales will provide more potential for upward mobility. If you don’t voice a desire to try new things you will continue getting work that plays to what others believe are your main strengths.


Follow these steps to help you receive positive feedback the right way:


1. Accept your positive feedback

Fight the urge to downplay or pick at your performance. Many people have a natural tendency to deflect or dilute a compliment. Though you may feel you’re merely being humble, these tactics will make it seem like you’re not confident in your abilities. Learning how to accept positive feedback may actually boost your self-confidence.

Even if you didn’t quite reach your target or land your next big client, look at it as the next step in the development of this particular strength. A near win can be an even more powerful motivator than an outright victory if you maintain focus.


2. How to respond

The best response is to accept your feedback and thank the reviewer. If you’re still worried about sounding overly confident, remember that you achieved this goal through the hard work you put into it. For example, when someone gives you positive feedback on your social media campaign, try simply saying “thank you, I put in extra time to learn how to use a new social media platform and I feel it really helped.” Embrace your feedback by acknowledging your hard work.

Rather than diluting positive feedback with excuses, share it with others. It’s important to recognize co-workers who helped you achieve this success. For example, “Christina taught me how to use a new hosting platform and I feel this greatly contributed to the success of our new blog.” Acknowledging the contribution of your co-workers shows your appreciation towards the team and takes the pressure off.


3. Extract important information

It’s not enough to be able to accept positive feedback well, you also need to learn how to use it to your advantage. Think about what exactly your manager or colleague liked about your performance, can you come up with ways to replicate or use this tactic more often?

If not you may need to press for further information. If your manager says you did a “great job” on the report you wrote, ask what they liked about it. Getting them to give you examples is especially helpful. If your manager tells you they liked the formatting, readability or graphs you’ll have a good idea of the style you should use in the future.

If you really feel you need some tips you can also press for more constructive feedback by asking open-ended questions such as, “What do you think I could do differently next time?”


4. Discuss how you can keep improving

Now that you’ve learned your strengths, don’t make the mistake of becoming so confident in your abilities that you fail to keep pushing yourself to improve. Remember there will always be room for improvement and take advantage of the knowledge you now have.

Most people work best when they have a plan and set goals for themselves. If the feedback is coming from your manager, take advantage of your one-on-one meeting by asking for more challenging assignments or responsibilities to meet these goals. Asking if you can manage the next project, take the lead on the next sales pitch or be given a stretch assignment are all good ways to challenge yourself.

Use your strengths to mentor younger employees or others who have difficulty in this area. Give positive feedback and encourage others to do the same.


Summary and take-aways:


Even after a job well done, some people may still have trouble accepting positive feedback. Learning how to analyze success factors will help you identify and leverage your strengths to advance your career in the right direction.

·      Fight the urge to downplay your achievements

·      Recognize your hard work and others who helped you succeed

·      Analyze feedback to learn your strengths

·      Use these strengths to continue improving and help others

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