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Category Archives: Teamwork

No one likes to receive negative feedback. We’d all like to skate through life and have people tell us, “That was perfect! No changes necessary.” Or, “I love your ideas. Let’s adopt every single one of them.” Or, “Your report was impeccable. Don’t change a thing.”

If only.

The truth is, you will receive negative feedback at times, whether in a meeting, during an annual review, or from co-workers (in a more casual sense). Negative feedback can sting. You might feel defensive, you may dread the work that the feedback might create, or you might even feel some animosity toward the person who delivered the critique.

Those feelings are normal, and you can work through them. Let’s talk about 3 ways to deal with negative feedback.

1. Delay Your Reaction

When you or your work is criticized, your kneejerk reaction may be to bite back. You might say something snappy, blow off the criticism, or even attack the speaker. None of these are productive responses, and they may end up damaging relationships or your reputation.

Instead, take time to internalize the criticism. You might ask a clarifying question or two (or gently correct something the speaker misstated), but do your best to not be defensive. Even if you don’t entirely agree with the feedback, there may be a kernel of truth in it. Let your anger or disappointment subside before you respond.

2. Examine the Heart of the Feedback

How often do you latch onto a criticism, even when someone has given you several compliments? When dealing with negative feedback, sit down and think about everything that was said. Was the negative component the most important part of the feedback? Or simply the part that stuck with you?

Even if the negative portion of the feedback wasn’t the central focus, it’s worth addressing it. Now that you’re in a more neutral state (hopefully!), consider ways to course correct. Will this be a major undertaking? Will it involve other people or various resources? Start planning, but don’t get too far until you do Step 3…

3. Circle Back to the Critiquer

After you’ve had some time to digest the negative feedback, it’s a good idea to reach out to the person who delivered it. It could be that they didn’t state their case clearly, were confused, or overstated the problem. Or maybe they meant every word of their critique.

Whatever the case, I encourage you to contact this person and address their criticism head-on. You might start the conversation like this:

“I’ve been giving what you said about X a lot of thought, and I want to ask you some clarifying questions before diving in to make corrections. Can we chat?”

If they agree to talk, keep things civil and professional. You should have a genuine desire to make things better and improve! The goal of this conversation is to capture more information AND demonstrate to the other person that you hear them, respect their opinion, and are willing to put in the leg work to make things right.

No one loves negative feedback, but we can all learn from it. At times, this feedback may be exaggerated or just plain wrong, but don’t dismiss it outright. We can learn from others’ thoughts and perspectives, and it’s helpful to keep a humble, always-improving attitude. Besides, the more you deal with criticism, the easier it will be to take it.

MARGARET SMITH IS A CAREER COACH, AUTHOR, INSIGHTS® DISCOVERY (AND DEEPER DISCOVERY) LICENSED PRACTITIONER, AND FOUNDER OF UXL. SHE HOSTS WORKSHOPS FOR PEOPLE WHO NEED CAREER OR PERSONAL GUIDANCE. 

HER NEW EBOOK IS CALLED A QUICK GUIDE TO COURAGE.

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The business world can be cutthroat at times. For years, I worked with sales teams at 3M, leading people whose pay and reputation relied on their sales performance. With competitions and high expectations driving them, the sales professionals felt quite a bit of pressure to outshine others.

Fortunately, I worked with congenial groups of people who did not throw others under the bus, but usually functioned as a cohesive unit. Other teams, I know, are not so fortunate. Some will do whatever it takes to gain a promotion, win a competition, or make themselves look better than their colleagues. And this isn’t just limited to sales teams—this level of competitiveness can be found in all industries, at all levels of the company. Whenever there is something to be gained by trampling others, people will, unfortunately, do it.

This type of ruthless competitiveness can create an atmosphere of tension and distrust. People are constantly watching their backs, and are hesitant to open up to co-workers or leaders. Additionally, when competitiveness reigns, there is little room for non-performance-based initiatives (improving interpersonal communication, trying out new ideas, beta-testing a new product). Competitiveness means stomping on the accelerator and not stopping to consider alternative paths or potential innovations.

Instead of competing with co-workers, I’m a proponent of collaboration and encouragement. When you remove the competitive component, you start to function as a cohesive team (and, as we all know, many heads are better than one). There is a reason workplaces are comprised of many different people with myriad responsibilities and perspectives—we’re meant to work together, brainstorm, collaborate, and make improvements.

Additionally, when workplaces move from an atmosphere of competitiveness to one of affirmation and support, people just might enjoy going to work—imagine that! An article by Harvard Business Review says that, “Employees who report having friends at work have higher levels of productivity, retention, and job satisfaction than those who don’t.”

Instead of fostering a highly competitive environment, it’s time companies shift their focus to interpersonal relationships and dynamics. As a leader, you can help build community in your workplace team in many different ways. Try throwing brief “get to know you” activities into your team meetings (your favorite food, dream vacation, any upcoming trips or events). Or enroll your people in a coaching program, such as Insights® Discovery, which is team-oriented and known to create lasting changes. Or, occasionally plan an activity, outing, or retreat for the team. You could present a few ideas and let people vote on their favorite one (so they have a voice in the planning process and are invested in the idea).

No matter how you decide to build community and amiability among team members, it’s important that it happens. While some amount of competitiveness isn’t necessarily a bad thing, it should not come at the expense of team unity and satisfaction. As a leader, you have the power to influence team cohesiveness, facilitate friendships, and encourage collaboration instead of competition.

MARGARET SMITH IS A CAREER COACH, AUTHOR, INSIGHTS® DISCOVERY (AND DEEPER DISCOVERY) LICENSED PRACTITIONER, AND FOUNDER OF UXL. SHE HOSTS WORKSHOPS FOR PEOPLE WHO NEED CAREER OR PERSONAL GUIDANCE. 

HER NEW EBOOK IS CALLED A QUICK GUIDE TO COURAGE

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In my experience, there is no better way to support and nurture your work team than through mentoring. And mentoring is not just for new hires or people switching roles within the organization; it’s helpful for anyone who is looking to learn a new skill, change roles, or climb the ladder.

There really is no substitution for working with a mentor.

Mentors can offer:

  • Personalized guidance
  • A roadmap for obtaining a new position
  • Lived experience and real-life lessons
  • A bridge to other resources
  • A chance to expand a person’s network

I’ve written about mentoring benefits in a few past blog posts, but today I want to talk about something slightly different: starting a mentoring cohort.

What is a mentoring cohort?

Companies can approach mentoring cohorts differently, but in essence, they are groups of people who are moving through a mentoring program together. That might sound formal, but it doesn’t necessarily have to be. Typically, each mentee will be assigned a mentor, who will work with them for a certain period of time (3 months, perhaps, or 6 months).

The mentees might occasionally meet up and offer each other support, as well. This often makes sense if the mentees are new in the organization and could use the same type of support or resources. Typically, the mentors have been with the organization for at least a few years and are well-respected and knowledgeable.

How do you start a mentoring cohort?

First, it’s helpful to identify the mentees’ needs. Are they interested in learning more about the organization, in general? Do they have their sights set on leadership? Are they seeking guidance in a particular area? You might send out a survey to discover what type of help people need most.

After you’ve pinpointed needs (and have drummed up some excitement about the program!), start compiling a list of potential mentors. Do your best to match the mentees’ requirements with the mentors’ experience. Then, send a personal message to each mentor, inviting them to participate in the program.

In your email, don’t forget to mention the reason you’ve chosen this person—their expertise in X, their reputation as a top salesperson, their enthusiasm in collaborating with others. Then, be sure to specify the time commitment. Since many people are busy with their day-to-day responsibilities, it’s best to keep this at a minimum (say, 45 minutes every month or half an hour every two weeks).

Once you’ve paired your people, give some mentoring guidelines (suggested questions to ask, suggested meeting times). Then, take a step back and let the mentoring commence! You may want to check in every once in a while (at the midpoint, perhaps), but this should mostly be hands-off for you.

When the program concludes, take a survey to see how it went AND ask your mentors if they would be willing to stay active in the cohort program. Then, start the whole process over again with your next batch of people.

A mentoring cohort is a great way to connect batches of people with appropriate mentors. If you think several people in your organization could benefit from mentoring, I encourage you to initiate an in-house mentoring cohort. And the bonus? You will also gain recognition as a leader, a doer, and someone who is actively trying to improve company culture. A win all around.

MARGARET SMITH IS A CAREER COACH, AUTHOR, INSIGHTS® DISCOVERY (AND DEEPER DISCOVERY) LICENSED PRACTITIONER, AND FOUNDER OF UXL. SHE HOSTS WORKSHOPS FOR PEOPLE WHO NEED CAREER OR PERSONAL GUIDANCE. 

HER NEW EBOOK IS CALLED A QUICK GUIDE TO COURAGE

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