Thursday, December 8th, 2016

Learning to Make the Most of Feedback

Seeking Feedback

I haven’t been subject to traditional performance reviews for over 12 years now. In spite of that, I try to seek out feedback in other ways: from clients, colleagues and mentors. As difficult as it can be to hear where you need to improve, it’s critical to growth and identifying learning opportunities.

If you really want to make the most of feedback, turn it into new skills. The desire to learn and the ability to seek out opportunities to learn are key to personal and professional growth.

Ironically, the tougher the feedback is to receive, the more important it may be to take it seriously. If it’s hard to hear, there’s a good chance that either:

  • You have an inflated sense of your own ability – and that can be a fatal mistake, or
  • It’s a skill that is very important to you – and so you should develop it further.

 Troubling Advice

I remember one particularly tough piece of feedback just as I was returning to work after my daughter was born. At the time, it was very hard to hear for several reasons:

  • It was the first work I’d done professionally for almost six months
  • I was ill that day with a miserable cold
  • It was something I thought I was good at (and maybe I was “good” but not great)

I was co-facilitating a workshop with someone who had been offering the course for years. It was my first opportunity to practice teaching that content. Afterward, as agreed, she offered me feedback. Much to my surprise, she told me “You need to work on your facilitation skills.”  She suggested I seek out some further training.


That was the sound her comments made as they hit me hard, knocking the wind out of my confidence.

That was almost nine years ago, and I still remember three things very clearly:

  • First, I thought about all the reasons I wasn’t at my best
  • Second, I ruminated on the comments for some time
  • Third, I took that constructive feedback to heart and decided to act on it

Learning and innovation go hand in hand. The arrogance of success is to think that what you did yesterday will be sufficient for tomorrow. ~ William Pollard

Constructive Action

Although I had a certificate in adult education, I’d taken limited training in facilitation. What happened next expanded my career options. In researching facilitation, I decided that “pure” process facilitation was where I’d find the best training opportunities. It led me to:

  • Join the professional association
  • Attend conferences
  • Take training workshops
  • Seek out opportunities to practice

The result is another line of business that I love and where I get to make a difference for clients. In fact, I just achieved my designation as a “Certified Professional Facilitator” from the International Association of Facilitators (IAF).

This could have gone very differently. Had I been less interested in lifelong learning and more concerned with validating my abilities, I could have disregarded the feedback.  But I would have missed a critical opportunity to learn and expand my skills.

I enjoy helping others learn – as much as I like learning myself!  Contact me if you’d like to discuss the learning needs of your team or organization.

Why CPF?  The process to achieve the CPF designation is:

  • Tied to core competencies rather than a specific facilitation approach or tool
  • Offered in multiple countries and languages on six continents
  • Run by the global professional body for facilitators, with members in over 65 countries

To learn why a CPF is your best choice for a facilitator, visit the IAF website.