When was the last time you welcomed difficult feedback from a colleague?
Despite how uncomfortable it was to hear, were you actually grateful that someone on your team had the courage to speak honestly about the impact of your words, attitude, or behavior?
That’s what happened to Ryan when one of the co-founders of the startup company he worked for said to him “Ryan, you’re always so negative.”
Immediately Ryan knew his colleague was right.
“It was like somebody took a 2×4 and ‘Bam!’, hit me upside the head with it. It went right into my soul when he said it. In that moment, I realized he was right. I could see how my negativity was working against me. Up to that point, I realized, I did have a tendency to be negative. I decided right then and there to change my outlook, and I did.”
How about you?
When a colleague gives you feedback, how receptive are you?
Most people are defensive (at least initially) to feedback. Your receptivity may also depend on who gives you the feedback and the depth of the relationship you have with that person.
As the saying by Jack Rosenblum goes…
If one person tells you you’re a horse, they are crazy. If three people tell you you’re a horse, there’s a conspiracy afoot. If ten people tell you you’re a horse, it’s time to buy a saddle.”
Ryan didn’t wait for ten people to tell him he had a negative mindset. Immediately he knew his colleague’s words were true and had the self-awareness to know where his negativity came from.
“I always had a lingering negativity that stemmed from being overlooked growing up.
Up until age seven I was the only child and had a sense of belonging with my parents.
After my younger siblings were born, they got all of my parent’s attention. I guess my parents thought because I was older, they didn’t have to worry about me and didn’t need to spend time with me. Yet I felt like an outsider, like I was this other person floating off in space on the side.
This pattern followed me into adult life in my work relationships. I often got overlooked and stepped on so others could get ahead.”
How did Ryan turn a negative mindset into a positive force to optimize his leadership?
It’s not about blame, it’s about responsibility
Looking back at how his upbringing influenced his negative mindset, was never about blaming his family. It was about connecting the dots between how experiences growing up impacted him and then holding up a mirror to figure out what he was going to do about it.
“I don’t hold any grudges against my parents or my siblings. I understand my parents grew up during the Depression and the beginning of World War II, so it was tough for them too. Though I wish things would have been different for me growing up, it was just the way it was. All of us are a product of our environment and times…and I’m a product of mine.
Underneath, I’ve always believed in myself. If I decide I don’t like something about myself and need to change it, I do. I’ve dedicated myself being able to evolve throughout my life.
Awareness is half the battle. Once I become aware, I do whatever it takes to change.
The feedback from my colleague about being negative was the first catalyst to my slaying the dragon of pessimism. Since that time, I’ve been a very positive person. The glass is at least half full, if not more, no matter what I’m going through.”
Ryan’s inspiring story and example applies to us all in taking feedback we’re given as an opportunity to grow.
What action will you take action today on feedback you’ve received about a blind spot in your leadership?
P.S. Order my book How Did My Family Get In My Office?! to get more stories of leaders like Ryan to optimize your leadership through self-awareness.
About the author
Bonnie Artman Fox, MS, LMFT works with executive leaders who want to gain self-awareness about the impact of their words and actions and up-level their interpersonal skills.
Drawing from decades as a psychiatric nurse and licensed family therapist, Bonnie brings a unique perspective to equip executive leaders with the roadmap to emotional intelligence that brings teams together.
Bonnie’s leadership Turnaround coaching program has an 82% success rate in guiding leaders to replace abrasive behavior with tact, empathy, and consideration of others. The end result is a happy, healthy, and profitable workplace…sooner vs. later.