At the beginning of the year we decided to run a culture exercise in our business to improve the ability our team has to deliver and receive constructive criticism. We watched a series of video’s from last years Global Leadership Summit and then planned a simple exercise.

 

People have blindspots, these are things you think you’re great at, but actually you’re not. Apparently the average person has 3.4 blindspots that they have no idea about. So we asked our team to share each others blindspot though an anonymous platform so that people would become more self aware of the conflicts they sometimes cause.

 

To be clear, we knew the risks were big. We knew that some people might be offended and some may take joy in writing hundreds of witty ‘blindspots’ to share around the office. The risk of building a team of people who were too polite to help each other grow was even bigger though.

 

We wanted to create a method where each person who wanted to grow personally could put themselves in a place to receive constructive criticism (so it was a voluntary exercise). This went towards our value in Unlocking Human Potential as a business and we felt the team would be mature enough to manage an exercise like this.

 

So this blindspot exercise was a stepping stone to building that culture. It worked, people participated and anxiously awaited their list of blindspots. Some even told me they were excited to see where the can improve.

 

So yesterday we saw the release of a number of ‘blindspots’ across the business. I personally received seven blindspots which may have been the company record for the total number of blindspots received.

 

After receiving my blindspot list it became abundantly clear to me that people need handles to manage the way the deal with conflict. As I found myself facing this list of constructive criticism I realised most of my team were in the same place – wondering what to do with this new found information. So I sent them this list of collected resources on email to help, I hope you find it useful in managing the way you receive constructive criticism in the future.

 

Don’t Mouth Off: 

Be careful not to start shouting your dissatisfaction about your blindspots all over the office. It will show more about your character than the person who wrote the blindspot. It may be more detrimental than helpful in the long run. You also don’t want to run the risk of creating a barrier to future constructive criticism that you may need to grow. Your peers are your greatest asset here and you should act in a way that shows you are humble enough to accept the criticism.

 

Determine if you’re over-reacting:

We call it constructive criticism and it usually is. But it can possibly feel painful, destabilising, and personal. Notice, and acknowledge — to yourself — your feelings of hurt, anger, embarrassment, insufficiency, and anything else that arises. Recognise the feelings — label them even — and then put them aside so the noise doesn’t crowd out your hearing.

 

The first time I read my blindspots I battled with a few of them. Once I have re-read them a few times I started to get a better understanding of the tone and perspective of the comment.

 

Although I could not tell who it was from I was able to see that some blindspots weren’t easy to hear because they are things I am actually trying to work on. Other blindspots held truth that I needed to change. Some blindspots even pointed at things I have considered in the past and have chosen not to change.

 

Look beyond their delivery:

Feedback is hard to give, and the person offering criticism may not be skilled at doing it well. Even if the feedback is delivered poorly, it doesn’t mean it’s not valuable and insightful. Not everything may have been shared in a way to build you up, reach your potential and with compassion. Avoid confusing the package with the message.

 

Organise your blindspots:

Have you received numerous blindspots that actually speak to one thing. I know I did, and it was much easier to start digesting once I realised I only had three issues to deal with rather than seven.

 

Take your new shorter list to people you trust and ask their opinion:

Take this shorter list to your mentor, a friend you trust, a family member or spouse to get some valuable honest feedback. I did this straight after getting my list and I found two area’s of blindspots that I can improve on.

 

Don’t agree or disagree:

Use this time to gather the data. In essence constructive criticism is data about how people see you. Its valuable and useful, but it doesn’t need to actioned straight away. I would suggest you start asking how you see yourself in light of this new data and see what questions come to play.

 

Later, after time, make a decision on how you want to react:

Give yourself time to decide how and what you want to change. Somethings will be simple and apparent, you will know they need to change. Others may be more complicated, thats ok, just allow yourself the time to make a good judgement call. There is no rush.

 

Special thanks to the GLS for inspiring the idea and to HBR for the resources in dealing with constructive criticism.