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Getting entrepreneurs where they want to go -- and doing it faster and with fewer mistakes -- is my main purpose as a business coach. In my experience, how much clients are open to and actually use feedback is one of the best indicators as to how quickly they and their companies will grow.
Related: The Art of Effective Feedback
Unfortunately, however, most people hamstring themselves through certain bad habits they develop in working with feedback.
Following are common mistakes people make when it comes to feedback and how you can avoid them and their unfortunate result: stunted company growth.
1. Overlooking or quickly dismissing feedback
You receive feedback every day: orders received, Yelp reviews, signals of employee morale, even those all-important "gut feelings" -- it's all feedback. Whether you take time to look at it is another story.
To be successful in business, you need an edge, specifically the edge that often results when you recognize trends before your competition does. One of the best ways to do that is by measuring everything you can and interrupting the results.
Over time, you’ll find that some measurements have more influence on your success than do others (and that’s a plus as well). But you may also find that measurements you’ve dismissed in the past can give you the slight edge you need to pull ahead of the competition.
Which is why you don’t want to be. . .
2. Interpreting feedback by yourself
Insisting on always interpreting feedback by yourself can lead to decisions and conclusions that are tainted by your own experiences, biases and personality. In other words, the feedback is interrupted through your lens.
In contrast, discussing feedback with a trusted colleague, mentor or coach can often provide a different angle or interpretation. One of the most common phrases I’ve heard a coaching client say after a discussion is, “I never thought of it that way.” Take time to share feedback received with those you trust. Ask them what they think, and then listen.
3. Taking feedback -- both good and bad -- too personally
Considering all the time, energy and effort you’ve put into getting your business to where it is today, you can be expected to feel as if it is an extension of you. But if you aren’t careful, you can start taking feedback too personally.
A failed deal or a slow week of sales can start you questioning whether you have what it takes to be an entrepreneur. Left unchecked, these self-doubts can easily start you on a downward spiral, where you begin questioning yourself at every turn.
Conversely, positive feedback can overinflate your ego. Sometimes, it can get to the point where you begin making decisions based on how infallible you think you are rather than based on a solid business case.
So, where’s the middle ground? If you are prone to taking negative feedback too personally, create distance for yourself by identifying the lesson learned. If you use the feedback as a stepping-stone, as opposed to a stumbling block, you'll understand that improvement is a process and not an event.
And if too much positive feedback is a problem, practice gratitude. While you should pat yourself on the back for a job well done, that job is not done alone. For every sale you make, there is a buyer. For every proposal you nail, someone has to agree to see you first. Celebrating victories by expressing gratitude to everyone that helped will keep your ego in check.
4. Arguing for your weaknesses
Feedback exposes weaknesses. As soon as one is exposed, it is human nature to want to protect and defend yourself. However, the moment you begin arguing for your weaknesses, they become yours to keep, along with their negative consequences.
People argue for their weaknesses by using excuses. While you may have a legitimate reason for what happened, arguing for excuses or weaknesses essentially communicates: “It’s out of my control. There’s nothing I can do about it.” In other words, you surrender before the battle even begins.
So, when you feel yourself adopting a fighting stance as you receive feedback, stop for a moment and ask yourself, “What do I have control over that can help change the situation?”
5. Not Asking for genuine and honest feedback
While we all know feedback is valuable, people do little to solicit it and less to act on it.
One of the simplest ways to solicit and receive feedback is simply to ask, “What do I need to start, stop and continue doing in my business?” The beauty of this question is that you can easily ask it of anyone: customers, vendors, partners, employees -- the list is endless.
One plus of seeking feedback in this way is that the answers you receive will be actionable. And if you take those suggested actions, an ongoing feedback loop will be created. People will see that their opinions have value to you because you are doing something they advised.
In the future, they’ll be more inclined to offer more feedback and feel they can do so in a genuine and honest manner.
In the end, feedback doesn’t come easy for anyone, but neither does success. If you’re serious about growing your business to be all it can and should be, then using feedback has to be part of your plan.