The importance of receiving positive criticism early in your career
I was recently listening to one of Jack Mas interviews, where the interviewer asked him about what his advice to young people would be and he said something that really hit home. He said, in your 20’s -30’s work in a small company and follow a good boss.
I have worked in corporate now for exactly 2 years and 3 months and what I know is that having been straight out of campus when I started working, having good bosses from the onset set me up on a path that forced a strong sense of self-awareness and an agility to adapt very fast to many situations.
Now we can sit here and attempt to psychoanalyse what makes of a good boss, but that is not what we are here for today. However, I have come to the conclusion that having a boss and leaders within an organisation that educate you on your strengths, weaknesses and areas of improvement through feedback has numerous benefits that I will be enunciating below:
Note: Our Kenyan culture is more passive aggressive and this means that naturally people will evade perceived conflict which could manifest itself in a difficult conversation. As a people we do not like confrontation unless it’s the Twitter where we are disguised behind the veil of the internet. Therefore, this permeates even into the work-place where people would rather gossip about you than inform you on what you need to improve on. I have been very privileged to be surrounded by business leaders who were keen to give me feedback, both negative and positive. However, because I am a strong believer that there is little to learn from success I will enunciate on the magical impact that receiving consistent constructive criticism can have.
- Negative criticism allows for you to educate your blind spots: I am a big fan of TD Jakes and he once said that in a room full of people the only person you cannot see is yourself. I am one of those people who if asked a year ago what my weakness was in an interview, I would easily say it’s that I am too hardworking. Simply because I am incapable of perceiving what my weak areas are. However, now I am clear on what I am naturally good at and what I really suck at, hence I am able to work towards continuous improvement
- It teaches you how to fail successfully. Yes that sentence is an oxymoron, the reason I know that failing successfully is one of the most important skills that we will ever learn is because failure is inevitable in life. The big deal is not that you will fail, it is what you will do after a career failure to protect yourself against giving up and setting yourself up for a self-sabotaging victim mentality. I believe that part of the reason some people have failed at the peak of their careers is that they had line leadership that did not educate them on what their areas of improvement were earlier in their careers, hence they carried those weaknesses into high stakes roles which cost them a great deal.
- It will help you to choose your battles. Currently, I have good grasp that I know what I am capable of and what I am not. Hence it is pretty easy for me to discern which tasks will be easy for me to accomplish and which ones will need slightly more time and effort. Many are the people who have moved up so fast that they did not take time to build foundations on which to land and hence when the fell, it was with a thud.
- The negative criticism I have received over time has also helped me a great deal in knowing my pressure points, that is under what circumstances am I likely to perform optimally and under which ones, I am likely to drop balls and fail miserably. So I prepare my mind psychologically for tasks that challenge my natural predispositions and manage the expectations of my stakeholders diligently and truthfully.
- It will teach you how to give holistic, actionable and constructive feedback when you become a leader with people reporting to you
- You learn to not take the feedback failures as attacks on your person versus as honest mirrors to the quality of your work.
As millennials we have been classified as an entitled microwave generation that does not heed to the credence of process before prosperity, but I know that there are many of us who are staying hungry and staying foolish, by showing up every day at our designated areas of work or school, and with the guidance and mentorship of those who have gone before us and hence know more and better, we can better ourselves for the sake of contributing into building economies and communities that have the best interests of humanity at heart
In the next post I will be discussing my views on how to teach yourself to ask for and receive constructive criticism through an objective lens