“Well it’s a pleasure to finally meet you, 007. I’ve heard a lot about you. Most of it good.”
~Max “C” Denbigh – Spectre (2015)
Who doesn’t love positive feedback? As social animals, acceptance and recognition from others hits our pleasure receptacles like finding a pair of Jimmy Choo’s at half-price! Unfortunately, we routinely treat positive feedback as a contact-high; sharing it with the group; basking in a glorious haze of mental self-indulgence, but rarely taking advantage of the learning opportunity it represents.
In “Hit Me With Your Best Shot – The Feedback Loop Part 1” I discussed how best to deal with negative feedback. Today, it’s about receiving positive feedback and how to process and learn from it.
I know, I know, I know. Positive feedback is hard to come by for project managers. So when it does come, we sometimes have no idea how to respond. Smile, mumble, deflect, faint… It’s not a pretty sight. But it’s important to truly listen to the feedback and understand what is being complimented or praised and why.
Let’s discuss a few ways of properly dealing with positive feedback:
1. Own it! Nobody really likes a person who’s too self-effacing; it goes against human nature, sounds lame and makes the person giving the praise feel like a schmuck. There’s nothing worse than someone responding to a compliment by saying “I guess I lucked out.” You’ve basically told the client or your boss that you had no idea what you were doing. Accept the praise professionally; recognize it as a big deal to receive it and how you want to use what you learned to be even better. When people know that you’ve truly heard them and are taking their compliment to heart, it makes the praise all the more impactful.
2. Share the love. Ok settle down Captain Fantastic. Even if the praise is for something you did on your own, you are still the project manager and leader of a team. As such, your wins are the team’s wins. Or like they say in marriage “What’s mine is yours and what’s yours is yours. Anyhow, you get where I’m coming from. Share the praise liberally with the team. This helps create ownership of the success amongst the team and empowers them to do even better the next time
3. Learn it. Know it. Live it. We learn from the bad, but we also learn from the good. Whatever it was that is being praised, let’s make sure we’re able to continue doing it. If one customer or senior exec in your organization likes what they saw, chances are others will as well. Take note, burn it into your system and make it a replicable best practice.
Feedback is a double-edged sword. When we know it's going to be negative – for example from a customer on a failed project – it can be painful and we may try to avoid it. But we need it – good or bad. And we need to know how to react to it. In the end, it will make us better project managers.