What is the best constructive criticism you’ve ever received?
Or has it all just been plain ol’ criticism of the regular variety?
I’d love to know!
As a blogger, I’ve received my fair share of criticism over the years. That’s always fun. *sarcasm alert*
However, the most caustic environment I’ve ever been in was not work-related. It was while serving on the PTA at my kids’ school. That was a tough crowd!
The best constructive criticism I’ve ever received was in college. I was 19 or 20 years old and had secured a prestigious marketing internship with a well-known company in Portland, Oregon. It was the gold standard for internships because they gave their interns actual responsibility so they could apply book knowledge to real-world settings. They paid their interns too!
I was primarily assigned to the advertising department, but all the marketing interns took turns rotating through the different marketing-related departments at the headquarters.
I spent time with the product buyers. Those folks are intense! I worked on the set of tv commercials and behind the scenes during radio ad production. I helped plan consumer events and charity golf tournaments. I facilitated consumer promotions and proofread ad copy.
I learned more practical skills during that summer internship than I did in all of college.
During my internship performance evaluation, my manager told me very gently that I was talented, bright, and hard-working. If I focused on my attention to detail, I would be the whole package.
I’m paraphrasing her exact words because it’s been a long, long time, but she sandwiched something I needed to work on between layers of compliments.
I was a little hurt when I first heard those words, but by some miracle, I got over myself and really took her constructive criticism to heart. I wanted to be the whole package! If being successful meant that I needed to focus on my attention to detail, then I would figure out a way to do it.
More importantly, she brought something to my attention before it became a problem that could result in a costly mistake and impact my career.
This constructive criticism probably doesn’t come as a surprise to you because I joke about how I’m not a perfectionist all the time on this blog.
But most people wouldn’t know that attention to detail doesn’t come naturally to me unless I told them.
I worked directly for the president of one particular company for years before he made all of his direct reports take one of those personality tests. I don’t put a lot of stock in those for a variety of reasons, but it did point out that I don’t enjoy tasks that require a high attention to detail. He was shocked! But it just illustrates that I worked hard to improve in this area.
Attention to detail is a learned skill for me. Basically, when I encounter a task that I know will require a high attention to detail, I flip a switch in my brain that says, “Now it is time over compensate by being extra
anal retentive particular!”
I could not play fast and loose with attention to detail when I was spending millions of advertising dollars a year, or approving a radio script for production, or sending a 120-page magazine off to print, or conducting market research that would be the basis for whether or not our company made a new acquisition.
Too much was on the line.
I learned to double and sometimes triple check my work. I asked other people to check my work. I scheduled time to work on tasks that required a high level of detail when I was at my sharpest during the day. I developed checklists and procedures that would prevent common or silly errors from occurring. I also learned to SLOW DOWN when necessary.
Perhaps the most important thing I did was surround myself with bright, capable individuals who were strong where I was weak and I trusted them to do their jobs and to have my back. When you have the right people on a team, it is awe-inspiring what you can accomplish together.
None of this learned behavior means that I enjoy tasks that involve a high attention to detail or that I whine any less about them. Ha! It just means that I can get through them competently. When I do mess up (still not perfect!), I’ve learned over the years to give myself some grace to learn from it and move on.
My story also illustrates why it is important to be careful with your words and approach. You never know when you are making a lasting impression, good or bad, on another individual. In fact, I never did tell this woman how much she helped me, but I am so happy she did.
Have you ever received constructive criticism that you look back on and are grateful for?
Or is it just me? Ha!
Thanks for being here today! Thank you for being kind to me with your words. I read everything and appreciate you for that thoughtfulness.
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