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.