Critiquing Work Skills: It's Not About Me

By Louise Bauer Davoli

Most of us are familiar with the terms constructive criticism and feedback and have at some point in our lives probably exchanged information with a boss, co-worker, a spouse/partner or even a child. When we are on the receiving end of this information our initial response to criticism usually involves defensiveness or lashing back at the messenger.

Ideally, the goal of criticism, critique, feedback, constructive criticism however you "dress it up" is to help someone be the best they can be in the work setting. It is not about decimating a co-worker or subordinate and reducing them to tears. How we give and receive criticism speaks volumes about our character. While criticism can be received as hurtful and demoralizing, it can also be considered in a positive way. It is this kind of honesty that can encourage us to do better. Demonstrate your true talents while revealing your fortitude by controlling the immediate challenge - resolving your own internal conflict.

As leaders in our lives and sometimes as leaders within an organization we do our best to accomplish the goals and objectives we have identified for ourselves. Through the process we need to learn what job skills we have done well and which skills need to shift. For most of us the workplace is the most feasible setting where we learn and develop our craft. Without guidance we will not grow.

Before we can grow professionally and benefit from feedback and focus on feed forward it is essential to not take the "constructive criticism" personally. When you are immune to the hurt involved with taking things personally you can decipher the emotionally charged language from the relevant information that will help you develop in your position. Teasing out the relevant content from an ill-conceived message allows you to get off the emotional roller coaster.

Potential Benefits of FeedForward:

-- People tend to listen more attentively-- Prevents stereotyping and assumptions-- Can be used in a variety of situations

Using FeedForward as a management tactic does not include eliminating annual performance reviews. However, the intent with adopting a FeedForward approach to enhancing performance and achieving both personal and professional goals is preferable to feedback in day-to-day interactions. Aside from its effectiveness and efficiency, FeedForward can make life a lot more enjoyable. Quality communication between and among people working together is the glue that holds relationships and organizations together. By using FeedForward people can dramatically improve the quality of communication in their organizations and relationships making sure that a positive message is delivered and for those on the receiving end of the message are receptive.

*The term "FeedForward" was coined during a discussion between Marshall Goldsmith and Jon Katzenback author of The Wisdom of Teams, Real Change Leaders and Peak Performance.