How to Receive Feedback (cc: HEC colleagues!)

Way back when, my friend Emily recommended the book Mindset. She credited the book with giving her a mindset-shift that ultimately allowed her to take a risky career move. In fact, she recently launched a blog of her own, predicated on bringing her creative writing to life through describing life situations where she applied the book's "growth mindset."

En bref, when you operate from a growth mindset, you thrive from challenge. You understand that "failure" is a springboard for growth and increasing your future abilities. For example, when five year olds in Harlem, NY were taught the growth mindset in their first year of school, they went from not knowing how to hold a pencil to scoring in the 95th percentile on the National Achievement standardized test. Feel free to confirm with an American teacher: this is not the norm.

While I won't give you the full book report on Mindset now, I recently read it and found one of the ideas so timely for me and my HEC colleagues. 

We've been in the midst of a year long "capstone" (think: business thesis), and it's one of the final projects standing between us and that coveted diploma.

Although I've been pacing myself throughout the year, I was recently in the final push of writing my 55 page business plan, had just repatriated to the US, and was feeling vulnerable. So you can imagine that I was seeking support in all areas of my life. Not critique.

But that May 1st deadline was looming, and I had several rounds to go with my adviser.

And let me tell you: it felt like he was there to critique -  my work and me. Each time I got another round of feedback from him, containing lists of push backs, I felt depressed and frustrated.

Then I read this passage in Mindset, which will forever re-frame my reaction to critiques:


"My student reminded me of the time she had sent her thesis research to the top journal in our field. When the reviews came back, she was devastated. She had been judged - the work was flawed and, by extension, so was she [...] 

I told her to change her mindset. 'Look,' I said,


"it's not about you. That's their job. Their job is to find every possible flaw.

Your job is to learn from the critique and make your paper even better.' [...] 


She tells me:


"I never felt judged again. Never. Every time I get that critique, I tell myself,

'Oh, that's their job,' and I get to work immediately on my job.'"


Upon reading this, I had flashbacks to my entire professional and student lives - every time my work received critiques (many, many, many times). The air felt so much clearer. It wasn't about me. It was never about me. My bosses, teachers, peers, and now adviser were just doing their job. Their sole mission was to find flaws in my work. This simple advice and mindset shift completely changed how I've received feedback ever since.

This week, my colleagues and I will really put the advice to test, as we stand up to defend our business plans in front of a panel.

Best of luck to all my colleagues during your 75 minutes in the spotlight! 


Repeat after me: "Critiquing our work is their job."  :)


Photo from Prezi

Posted on June 8, 2017 and filed under Tips & Tools.

The Nashville Diaries: an Observation about the People

After a recent post about our move to Nashville, a former business partner picked up the phone to say, "I want to tell you my story about a professional and personal decision that many people in my life didn't understand." I hadn't seen this person in years, and it sent my heart soaring that she initiated our re-connection in this way. After we discussed her story, she came back to the topic of Nashville, expressing how much she loved the food and people during her few visits. She described its inhabitants as "active citizens" and gave me some examples.

Even before her prompt, I had started to observe subtle thoughtfulness and intentional conversations around me. And of course now that I'm actively looking for proof, I'm finding it tucked into every corner of the city. One conversation in particular that I observed rocked my world. I mean that very seriously. It was the most beautiful interaction I've ever witnessed between a parent and child. And while these two family members are the characters in this story, it would have been equally as touching between any two people, and it has HUGE implications on how we work with others. Here it is...

A mother and her child were out to breakfast to celebrate the child's graduation from elementary school (meaning about 12 years old). About halfway through their meal, the young, hip-looking mother looks at her child and says,

"I want to tell you something. Right before we left your graduation this morning, your teacher pulled me aside to tell me how much she enjoyed having you in her class. She told me that throughout the year, she'd step back to watch you interact with the other kids because she loved watching you treat everyone as individual people by looking at them, listening to them, and respecting them. I want you to know that I am so proud of you for being that kind of human.

<Child sheepishly looks into plate of pancakes>

Do you understand why I'm proud of you?

The most important thing is for people to feel seen and heard. When you treat each person individually with attention and respect, they feel seen and heard by you. Being seen and heard by another human is the most important thing in the world."


WOW, right? I've re-imagined this scene repeatedly keep thinking how right my colleague is: I do live among active citizens in my new hometown.

I've been thinking about when I do and don't act like this 12 year old - in my personal and professional relationships.

How many of our colleagues, clients, bosses, and subordinates feel seen and heard by us? Although I try hard to be present and personal, I'm great at it sometimes and fail other times. Occasionally, I unintentionally push my point too far because I'm nervous or ask leading questions because I'm scared that the conversation will awkwardly halt. On the other hand, sometimes I intentionally don't acknowledge colleagues who humble-brag or possess overly needy egos. (BTW - this isn't advice.. just admitting my own faults and style)! 

I've recently decided that the infamous "It's not personal, it's business" is never true; there is always something personal at stake for someone in the exchange. Therefore, being someone who makes others feel seen and heard remains a hard-to-come-by quality that will make you stand out as an exceptional human in any situation.


As Oprah, one of the most influential business people in the world, says,

“I’ve talked to nearly 30,000 people on this show,

and all 30,000 had one thing in common:

They all wanted validation. If I could reach through the television and

sit on your sofa or sit on a stool in your kitchen right now, I would tell you that

every single person you will ever meet shares that common desire. They want to know:

‘Do you see me? Do you hear me? Does what I say mean anything to you?’"


Photo from Mothermag

Practical Advice for the In-Between

Last year, one of my dear friends from HEC made a big job change. After having just moved his family from Africa to France, he decided to leave the security of his multi-national company without having another job lined up. 

This friend and colleague is one of those people with whom you always feel seen and heard; everyone loves being around him. He’s sophisticated yet laid back and always ego-less. His presence has an aura of wisdom, which made me even more intrigued by his decision and wanting to know more. I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to ask: 

“If someone were to leave her job without moving directly into the next one,

what advice would you give for the 'in-between?'” 


His response was simple, practical, and actionable:

“From day one, be disciplined about creating structure.

Set your alarm for the normal time, go to the gym, shower and get dressed,

then get to work (even if you aren't going to an office).”


For those seeking their next big thing during this time, another friend adds:

"Set goals for how many and the types of jobs you'll apply for, and

never slow down because you felt that an interview went well."


I'd also add: before you set your goals, strategically map out what you want and why you want it. We're changing jobs more often than ever before: every 2 1/2 - 3 years!

Think about: What's your end game, and what work will get you closer to your ultimate desired state through helping you acquire new skills, contacts, experience in an industry, etc?


PS - A Grown-Up Bored List if you have some time on your hands this summer.


Beautiful workspace from Petra Bindel