Wednesday, February 12, 2014

When Your Colleagues Give You Lemons...

We all know that challenges come in many different sizes, shapes, and colors, and in my experience, that also includes flavors. When colleagues leave a bad taste in your mouth from their negative comments, those same colleagues can unknowingly motivate you forward through criticism and negative feedback. No one wants criticism or negative feedback, our natural instinct is to stay in the comfort zone and only look for those who sing our praises or tell us what we want to hear, however, this mentality won't grow you in the way that is needed to stay relevant and progressive. 

The Ingredients
The idea is not to buy into the criticism and negative feedback, but to use it as fuel to propel you forward. While it's easy to take the low road and complain about those who don't cooperate with you, downplay your ideas, or refuse to acknowledge your contribution, the worst thing you can do is use your energy to retaliate in the same manner.  What is beneficial to you is to hear those criticisms, look for the nugget of wisdom contained within, and use your energy to focus on a plan for improving. Popular advice will tell you to ignore criticism and negative feedback, and on the surface, if the criticism has no intelligence (Mary Jane is stupid, dumb, etc.), then yes, those kinds of comments should have no place in your life. The kinds of criticisms I am talking about can actually be a performance measure that indicates you need to bring your A-game instead of just getting by.

The Recipe
The next time you hear any criticism about you or your work, honestly ask yourself could you have done better. This will take removing the person from the criticism (which can be a challenge in itself) and pondering what you could have done differently that would exceed the team's expectations. If the answer is yes, then take the time to really prepare, and use that criticism as your standard to exceed your usual performance. 

Mixing It Up
Pick a meeting you normally facilitate or participate in and place each colleague on a spectrum of expectations. You know some will want the cliff notes while others will want the manual, so bring both the cliff notes and the manual. When it's your time (don't be too anxious), start by delivering the cliff notes. Soon after, you will probably get those probing questions or critical comments, pull out the manual and instantly shut down any further detracting comments.

Your Brand (of Lemonade)
You can choose to look at the situation as a problem (glass half empty), or as a challenge (glass half full), but the choice is up to you. At the end of the day, people won't remember that you were criticized, but instead that you displayed a stellar example that can make an ordinary meeting the extraordinary exception. This is YOUR brand, own it and turn the lemons into lemonade.

What "lemons" do you have at work that you make lemonade out of? Has it worked or are you still trying to make lemonade? Share your thoughts and let us help.