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With Great Feedback Comes Great Responsibility

While author and columnist Carole Robin and American business magnet Warren Buffett are in agreement that feedback is a gift, along with millions of others, perhaps there is some room for interpretation. If feedback is a gift then let’s look at it in the most literal way: when you receive a gift you have the option to keep and use it, take it and not use it, and to return or give it away. There are times when feedback can be helpful and others times where feedback can be destructive, even without malintent. In order for us to receive this gift in the healthiest and best possible way, we may first need to learn how to interact with feedback and our narrative around it. The balance and intention we set for ourselves around feedback is important for personal growth and development. Now, let me be controversial for a minute: our culture is making a shift toward self-care, setting healthy boundaries, and not taking things personally, in this movement, we may also become desensitized to our own growth by ignoring or fighting feedback simply because it is not pleasant. While we can elect growth over feeling bad when things go wrong, there may be deeper lean toward not taking ownership of something that we broke. Instead of receiving the feedback and then deciding what we want to do with it, we may completely tune it out altogether.

And my question is, will this ultimately lead to a culture where no one is accountable to anything? Have we become a culture of whiners on the defense?

Let’s go back a bit to further marinate this notion: I grew up in the service and retail industry. My first job was at 12 years old serving ice-cream in my town’s local ice-cream shop, as I progressed in my career 😉 I worked my way into a Subway Sandwich Artist role (yes, this was my exact title), and soon enough I was a server for a country club. Through college I managed a luxury boutique store and then moved onto Nordstrom, Macy’s, Saks, and eventually Bloomingdale’s. It was not until my thirties that I moved from retail to other industries. In every single role that I held where I serviced the public, whether I was leading a billion-dollar culture transformation or asking, would you like extra sprinkles? A quality customer experience was the price of entry. I would have been fired immediately if I had received complaints, been rude, or missed the opportunity to welcome someone because I was too busy texting on my phone. Being dismissive or apathetic to the role was not an option. In every role, my employer required that I seek to go above the bar of polite customer service to provide an experience and an inviting opportunity for them to bring their business back again. But something has changed over the years, it is like the customer has to earn the attention of the employee and that most service experiences these days are hit or miss. A mere two days ago I had an unpleasant experience at a frequented coffee shop and given that this was the 4th time I had received poor service I texted my concern to their feedback center (keep in mind my feedback was constructive), within minutes I received an extremely long and defensive response back from the CEO of the coffee shop! Normally I would be impressed that the CEO was that engaged and responsive to a customer complaint, but this was not an apology or a let me make it better, this was a flat out outburst. On the flipside, about two years ago, I had ordered a meal from a restaurant, my husband picked up our food and when he got home we realized that they had added a garnish that he was allergic to, so we had to call and reorder the meal and he had to drive back and pick it up. Now, keep in mind, this was totally my fault: the menu had listed this garnish and I missed it when I made the order, so on me completely. I spoke with a waitress who apologized profusely, even though I explained it was my fault; she promised that both meals would be remade so that mine would be fresh as well. Only moments after I had hung up with the waitress and my husband had left to pick up the food, I received a call from the restaurant’s General Manager who wanted to apologize personally. I reminded him yet again that it was not their fault. He then went on to comp our entire meal and surprised us with a special dessert. When I called to thank him and begged him to let me pay for everything he said, “I will not allow you to pay but I will ask that if you ever come into the restaurant please ask for me, I would love to meet you and say hello.” WOW. That is customer service. Two examples and two different responses to receiving feedback.

Author and speaker Robin Sharma shares a beautiful example of creating an experience in his podcast:

I was in Lucerne, Switzerland, a few months ago and I was working on my new book. Someone delivered some tea and I’d asked for some fresh lemon. What I noticed is whoever had sliced the lemons took the time to de-seed the lemon wedges. It’s about de-seeding the lemon wedges on the areas of focus that are most important to you. Anyone can just cut the lemon wedges and hand them to you, but this producer had the discipline, the bravery, the acumen, the commitment, the devotion – to actually take the time to de-seed the lemon wedges.

We have become so focused on protecting ourselves and our precious egos from feedback that we forget to de-seed the lemons, we forget to go outside of ourselves and really grow. Growth does not happen in a vacuum, it happens when we are open to possibilities, it happens when we make the choice to show pride in how we show up and the actions we take. Taking care or ourselves, prioritizing our values, and building healthy relationships are all of the things that lay the foundation for us to be apt for growth, but we cannot just set our boundaries and wait, we must progress forward and step into life allowing the consequences of our actions to be a chance for change. Feedback can take on many forms, it can be a succinct verbal expression, it could be the nonverbal ques of those around you, or it may even show up as a feeling of guilt or shame following an action. Through a healthy self-narrative, you can be conscious to feedback and then filter through it to decide if you would like to keep it or leave it. I personally do not want to live on the defense, and I seek to grow through every experience, so for me, I look forward to receiving these gifts of feedback and building the habit of really objectively assessing how it will or will not help me improve and further my goals for life. It is empowering to know that we have the choice to do what we want with feedback yet we also have a responsibility to ourselves and others to make the best choice possible.

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