Greatest lesson from the “worst” feedback
by Alicia Gross
I learned a great lesson with feedback early on in my career that I have carried with me. When you receive feedback, it is crucial to thoughtfully evaluate it and determine the next best steps. It might be good, bad or ugly info that you learn but at the heart of it there is either a reality or perception to address. Even “wrong” or “worst” feedback provides an opportunity to learn and grow. You choose how to receive and react to feedback and all feedback can be a gift if you apply the right lens.
A decade a go, I interviewed for a role. I didn’t get it. I sought feedback from the hiring manager. When we met, I was shocked at her response. She told me that she worried if others would feel comfortable asking me questions. I made my way back to my cube. My teammates could tell something was wrong. A fellow agent kept inquiring and so I shared what happened. Their surprise did put me at ease and was followed by very kind comments around countless examples of folks I had helped.
Honestly, my initial response was a mix of hurt and anger. She was new to the department and her feedback wasn’t an accurate portrayal of me.I gave myself the usual day to be upset. And then I decided it was time to reflect. Whether the interviewer was new or not, I had put something out there that gave an impression.
It was one I knew not to be true and my teammates knew not to be accurate but something had made it seem that way. I decided to focus on what I did to paint the perception.
Upon self-reflection, I quickly realized what happened. A few months prior, I had tried for a role outside my department. It was post-crash and they received 95 applicants for 5 spots. My written pre-screen got me an interview even though I didn’t have experience with the line of business.
The interview went ok but it was no surprise when I didn’t get one of the coveted openings. The feedback I received was that I wasn’t concise or confident enough. I don’t remember the exact wording but the impression I gave had been too passive and not assertive enough.
Fast-forward to this next role. I was determined to sound surer of myself. I wanted to limit any appearance of hesitation or lack of confidence. I shortened my responses to key interview questions. I focused on what I did with less minimizing language and saying “I” and “me” instead of using team terms.
I made the cardinal mistake of taking feedback and swinging the pendulum too far causing me to stray from my true self which read as aggressive instead of assertive.
I sounded like a one person show instead of the team player I was known for being.
I let validate feedback be over-corrected creating a newer and bigger problem. The feedback about approachability and helpfulness was a direct reflection of an attempt to fix prior feedback.
I could have just been frustrated. One hiring manager says I don’t sound confident and the next says I am too aggressive. I could have thrown my hands up knowing neither feedback was accurate of me but that would not have been beneficial long-term. Instead through self-reflection, I noticed the connections between the differing feedback. I took ownership of my own actions and evaluated how I receive and implement feedback.
The biggest lesson I learned from the “wrong” feedback I received was that I control the perceptions I create. It is important to be self-reflective with any and all feedback. It is also crucial to address feedback without overcorrecting which can lead to unintentionally working on one skill only to come off like someone you are not.
I interview with that same hiring manager a few months later and made it further in the process. She commented how impressed she was that I had taken the feedback given and chose to be self-reflected and then addressed it our interactions and interviews.
Feedback can drive us to be the best possible version of ourselves but we can’t let ourselves get lost in the process. Strive to be your best but remain true to you. Be open to feedback and always reflect on it whether it resonates and why or why not. Feedback truly is a gift because it is a glimpse into how others view you and your skills.
Since the “worst” feedback I ever received, I have used the lesson learned countless times. I still always ask for feedback and remember to reflect and determine how to address moving forward. Feedback shouldn’t hold you back or make you bitter but drive you to self-examine and be a motivator to do more and do it better.
This article appeared in Insurance Nerds.