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Feedback: Is It a Gift or Castor Oil?

Mary Rosenbaum | August 2nd, 2011

How open are you to feedback from those you work with and for, or even from friends and relatives? I know from past experience that praise goes down real easy. Constructive criticism, no matter how couched the wording, goes down like castor oil – it may be good for you but it tastes really bitter and you want to spit it out as quickly as possible.

Yet, how can we learn so we can continue to earn? How we view and judge ourselves is very much like the way we see ourselves in the mirror. The mirror I look at is different than the one that others hold up in front of me. To prove it let me ask you this question:

Have you ever walked down the street and caught your reflection in a store’s plate glass window? Is it the same image you see every morning in your bathroom mirror? I know for a fact it isn’t the same image for me or for most people I know. Seeing yourself with “fresh” eyes can be an enlightening experience.

Obtaining feedback from others is a great way to see yourself with “fresh” eyes. But only if you let yourself really hear what they have to say.

Recently I had an opportunity to provide feedback to my friend Carolyn, a real estate broker. Quite by accident I found out that a neighbor of mine had spoken with Carolyn about renting a house and came away from that conversation with the belief that Carolyn no longer wanted to work on rentals. Of course, this could not be farther from the truth as Carolyn relies on converting rental clients into buyers as well as benefitting from their positive word of mouth advertising. Yet, this recent exchange had just the opposite effect.

I thought this would be a great opportunity for Carolyn to learn from this past exchange how she misrepresented the value she provides clients –  her brand –  and think of different ways to handle this in the future. Instead, Carolyn made this conversation all about how she did everything right and how the client was the one at fault. To further minimize the impact of this feedback, Carolyn ended by saying that this client’s opinions really did not matter. The feedback went down like castor oil – spit out as quickly as possible.

As someone who specializes in helping clients understand, communicate, and leverage their personal brands, I know that one of the main ingredients in the branding process is being clear on the impact you have on others (seeing your reflection in a different mirror). Why? Because in your personal and professional life, your reputation, how you are known, will always precede you.

You are always trying to reach your networks network so you have to know: What are your followers going to say to theirs? What information will Carolyn’s former client be passing along to others? And what impression has Carolyn been conveying to her other clients?

How others view your work and the value you deliver may be different than your own perceptions of how you come across. Here are a few ways to continue to learn so you can earn:

1. Solicit feedback. Ask those around you for ways you could improve upon what you do for or with them. They will feel flattered that you think their opinion is valuable. By having them try to help you get better or clearer on the way you work makes them feel like partners in your success.

2. Be courageous and be humble. Rather than becoming defensive and going into attack mode thank them for their honesty. Let the words sink in. Go back and think about what you heard not from the standpoint of how you felt when you heard them but rather how these words apply to what you know about yourself versus how others see you. Most importantly use these comments to help move you closer to where you want to be.

3. Reciprocate with honest feedback and become a partner in the success of others.

For those of you who have the courage to gain a better understanding of how you impact others and how this affects your career or business, contact me for information on how an online 360 assessment can help you highlight your strengths and define your brand.

Utilizing her experience of over 25 years Mary Rosenbaum empowers careerists and entrepreneurs to gain greater clarity and more effectively communicate their unique promise of value. Strong leadership means leading with your strengths. Get her free report Top Strategies for Getting Visible and Getting Ahead.

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