The Art of “Ethical Bragging”
(click below to view the video or read on if you’d prefer!)
In this third and last article on feedback, let me shift my perspective from the manager’s and how to give helpful feedback to the recipient and how to receive feedback constructively as well as make sure that your accomplishments are properly appreciated and therefore rewarded. In order to ensure your achievements are known and valued, practice the art of “ethical bragging”: put yourself forward without arrogance. Here’s how:
Tip #1: be specific too
For those among you who saw my article back in September on performing a self-assessment of your performance, you may recall that I encouraged you to first make a list all the tasks you had completed and then, in a second step, to review each by asking yourself “so what”. The purpose of the “so what” question is to bring to light the benefits for your employer of what you accomplished.
Let me elaborate more here. I encourage you to look for hard evidence of your contribution: a report is good but so is a slide pack, meeting notes, or an email trail. With evidence, there is no dispute that you did do something but it is even better to have evidence of the positive impact of your work. For example, an email complimenting you on your report or meeting minutes mentioning your presentation and the decisions taken based on the recommendations you made.
You see, all managers are human and they cannot be expected to remember everything you did so it is your job to refresh their memory but, again, don’t stop at just what you did: you will have more impact when you discuss the positive consequences of your work. By sticking to factual evidence, you are not arrogant, just transparent. And this brings me nicely to tip #2…
Tip #2: foster a dialogue
It may be uncomfortable to go on and on listing all your accomplishments. And discomfort could lead you to hold off mentioning all your achievements so a way to ease off this pressure is to engage your manager through questions. For instance, if you have just mentioned one accomplishment, like this presentation you made to the senior management committee, and your boss is opining as they recall the occasion, you could say: “and do you remember what the Chair said?” Your manager may recall that the Chair said your report was well researched and that this was helpful in making an important decision. Or he may not and then you can supply the information but it will feel lighter as a process than simply rambling on. So use questions to encourage a dialogue. Another good question is: “And what did you think of…” or even “I recall you were really pleased, weren’t you?”
Tip #3: respond to criticism
I can’t have an article about receiving feedback without a quick mention of how to respond constructively to criticism. I did cover this in a previous psot which you can access by clicking here.
To keep this article a reasonable length, let me say just 3 things about responding to negative feedback:
1. Acknowledge the feedback: don’t start disputing it straight away. Acknowledging negative feedback does two really useful things. First, it lowers tension. You see, managers are usually concerned about employees’ reactions to criticism so, when you acknowledge feedback, you are showing that you won’t be dealing with this feedback through confrontation. Don’t stay silent either as this could mean you are ignoring the feedback.
Acknowledging does not mean that you are agreeing with it. But it shows that you are confident enough in yourself to hear negative comments. You empower yourself.
2. Ask for specifics: get to the bottom of the negative feedback. What happened? Was there a misunderstanding? Who did what? Is it hearsay? Ask questions so you can really understand the issue: only by understanding it will you be able to address it properly.
3. Explain don’t excuse: if the criticism is warranted, what I’d suggest you focus on is learning the lesson, remediating if that makes sense and moving forward. It is fine to explain what was going on for you but not to shirk from your responsibility.
If, on the other hand, the criticism is unfounded, this will hopefully have come to light when you were asking for specifics at the previous step. If necessary, calmly refute with your evidence which contradicts the feedback. Because you acknowledged the feedback at the onset, you have shown that you are not defensive and because you inquired into specifics, you showed that you cared about understanding so your refutation will not sound like you are groping for excuses.
And throughout it all, keep cool. Watch the breathing. I know, easier said than done!
This brings me to the end of this last article on feedback. I hope that it and its companions will prove useful for these very important performance discussions. If you have questions or comments, as usual, do not hesitate to post a comment or to email me at email@example.com.
As this is my last article for 2012, let me close by wishing you and your loved ones a wonderful yearend break. We’ve all had a fairly hectic 2011 and 2012 does not look like it will be much of a smoother ride so let me encourage you to have a pause if possible and recharge your batteries ahead of the New Year. I will look forward to sharing more tips in 2012 to make your work life a little less complicated. Until then, take good care!
If this article resonated with you, don’t hesitate to contact me for a chat where we would explore what is going on for you and what you would like to have happen. To contact me, click here.
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