We often hear business gurus singing the praises of receiving feedback. How it leads to the best ideas. How it fosters the most profitable customer relations. How it makes for the best office environment.
I don’t deny any of that. But . . .
What’s not talked about enough is how to receive feedback, and when to respectfully ignore it.
Stories I’ve heard from other offices as well as my own experiences leads me to think that we all lean toward pleasing as many people as possible. Because of that, lots of feedback often leads to lots of confusion, frustration and distilling. Especially for workers not on the executive leve. Especially when executives are likely to try to please the masses just like everyone else.
But a glowing sign as to your level of expertise is your ability to diplomatically yet emphatically sift through feedback, marking the good, the bad and the insane. In your area of expertise, you are the expert. And while feedback is most important, you should have experiences, knowledge and instincts that should not be tossed aside. That’s what you’re paid to have. Don’t deny at – act on it.
Many of us crumble under a barrage of feedback. We let it cripple us, weaken us, even depress us. We stop thinking of ourselves as complex human beings who can systematically analyze all the feedback and then synthesize it together into the right decision. More times than not, we receive the feedback, find the common ground that will please everyone (or the common ground that won’t displease anyone) and we just go after it. Straight down the path of least resistance.
And it always produces mundane results that don’t really get anyone excited.
Then there’s the issue of having too many cooks in the kitchen. Unless you’re really, really, really good at leading a meeting, too many people almost always results in chaos and more confusion. And obviously lots of feedback. Lots of people wanting to throw their two cents in. Lots of people wanting to share opinions. Lots of people forgetting that, in most cases, they probably aren’t the target market, but you should go ahead and try to meat their wants, nonetheless.
If you’re not confident in or aware of your skills in the issue at hand, this avalanche of opinion will overwhelm you.
Finally, there’s customer feedback. The holy grail, right? The customer is always right. Unless, of course, they’re wrong.
Admittedly, giving your customers what they want is usually a good thing. But sometimes, you need to be the parent in the relationship, shielding your child (your customer) from consequences they simply cannot comprehend. Holding your ground when little Johnny wants to pet the pretty porcupine. Showing some tough love when Susie Customer demands you don’t discontinue a product, even though you can’t pay anyone else to buy it.
Feedback is a beautiful thing, but it is not the authority. It is always biased, always opinionated and very rarely objective. So knowing how to deal with it (and when to completely ignore it) becomes one of the most important attributes we can develop as marketers, as leaders, as spouses, as people.