Almost everyone agrees that Academy and Emmy award-winning screenwriter, producer, and playwright Aaron Sorkin is extremely talented. Still, his latest show, HBO’s ‘The Newsroom’, has not been met with the usual praise, but rather the opposite – the show has faced controversy and tons of criticism.
Sorkin recently met his critics face-to-face at the 2012 Television Critics Association Summer Press Tour. During the press conference, he acknowledged he was aware of the criticism and when the audience shot question after question in his direction, he answered to the best of his ability.
Whether you like the show, hate it, or have never seen it, the key takeaway of Sorkin is that he didn’t shy away from feedback. In fact, it was reported that HBO execs, possibly fearing more bad press, told him he could cancel that appearance with critics. While facing a room full of people who publicly hate your work would not be easy for the self-esteem, he was still open to hearing their feedback. Time will tell if he puts it to good use.
Feedback is sometimes viewed as a negative action, a dirty word if you will. However, when you hold a management position, it’s especially important to listen to feedback from others about your own behavior, and to use it to change and improve your performance and interactions with others.
The real issue for managers when it comes to feedback isn’t whether they should receive feedback or not, it’s getting candid feedback in the first place. Many workers are hesitant to give their managers honest feedback out of fears it will impact their own job. But if a company utilizes a program that provides rater anonymity, the fear of giving feedback should diminish.
Those who aren’t open to feedback are most likely not listening to others as well as they think they do. They may be missing out on some useful feedback that would improve their own effectiveness.
To help jump-start a feedback culture, here are some development tips to keep in mind:
- Ask for specifics when receiving feedback, either positive or negative. Keep listening until you understand what the person is trying to communicate to you.
- Use the three “R’s” to make sure you understand what a coworker is saying – Repeat, Restate, and Reflect.
- Ask for feedback that is performance related. Ask for specific suggestions for improvement.
- Don’t interrupt others when they are talking, even if you think you know what they are going to say.
- Approach a person who often disagrees with you, and ask that person to explain his/her perspective on something that you have strong feelings about. Make a point to listen rather than argue or analyze the problems with the argument. Afterward, thank the person for being willing to talk with you about this issue.
Be open to feedback and use it to improve. Make sure you listen well to the ideas and perspectives of others without getting overly defensive, even if you don’t agree. You never know, the willingness to listen and respond appropriately could become one of your greatest strengths.