How to grow from the feedback you receive

While peers and managers to share feedback to can be helpful, it’s not always shared in a way that provides action steps. Often, it’s up to you — the recipient — to interpret how you can use these suggestions to grow in your career.

At MovingWorlds Institute, we train mid-career professionals in leadership development, and we possess a formula for this common career dilemma. In our Global Leadership Fellowship, we teach professionals the “Think Back, Think Through, and Think Forward” method for feedback.

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I’ll work through each step, imagining that the feedback provided to you was that you didn’t contribute to an important meeting.

Think back

The intention in this stage is to simply state what happened, and brainstorm – in a pressure-free environment – what should have happened. Try not to attach any judgment to what you’re describing, but rather approach this as if you were a neutral third-party. The idea here is that this will help you focus on the underlying behavior that you’re trying to develop, without creating emotional reactions that can be destructive. The questions to ask yourself during this stage are:

  1. What happened? What are the facts about the event(s) that prompted the feedback?
    Your VP had asked the table for ideas, but you didn’t speak up.
  2. What thoughts did you have? What were you thinking about and considering during this event?
    Perhaps you were thinking you’re idea was too out of the box and would make you look out of sync.
  3. How were you feeling? What emotions and physiological responses were you experiencing during this event?
    This could be something like that you had sweaty palms and were feeling nervous.

Think through

At this stage, the goal is to identify the ideal action(s) you could have taken instead. Look at the gaps between the actions you took in the moment and alternative actions you could have taken will help you pinpoint the specific underlying behavior that you need to develop:

  1. What did you do? How did your actions appear to others?
    It probably looked like you weren’t engaged, because you said nothing.
  2. What should you have done? What could you have done differently?
    You could have shared your idea. Additionally, if you’re still not sure it would’ve made sense, another option would have been to contribute to the meeting with one (or more) thoughtful question(s).
  3. What blocked you? What underlying behavior or scenario kept you from doing the thing(s) you should have done?
    This might be feelings of insecurity or fear, or something more systemic, like a lack of structure in the meeting.

Think forward

At this last stage of the reflective process, you want to envision what you will do next time you’re in a similar situation.

  1. What will you do next time? Imagine that you’re in a similar situation next week. Visualize the scenario in your mind and note what emotional reactions and thought processes this exercise triggers. Are you prepared to manage your feelings and take a different action than you did before?
    This might be suggesting an idea, asking a question, or perhaps proactively addressing a systemic issue, like proposing all meetings have an agenda emailed in advance so people have the opportunity to prepare more thoroughly.
  2. How can you prepare? What can you do to prepare and manage your gut reactions, emotions, and physiological responses?
    You could come up with a list of questions that might be asked in the next meeting, and then practice responding to this to build confidence in speaking up.
  3. How can you stick to your intention? How can you leverage your strengths and overcome obstacles to do the thing you are intending to do?
    You might practice on your own and or with a colleague, mentor, or friend in advance of your next meeting.

As a final step, make sure to take time to write this all down and share your goals with a trusted friend or colleague to help keep you accountable. Those two things are proven to make you more likely to achieve your goals!

Mark Horoszowski is the CEO and co-founder of MovingWorlds, a social enterprise that operates leadership development + social impact programs for individuals as well as global corporations. Mark is a Fellow at The RSA and also serves as adjunct faculty at the University of Washington Tacoma’s Center for Social Responsibility and Leadership. You can find him on Twitter at @markhoroszowski and @experteering.

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