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October 2nd, 2013

Did you notice that September was a bit of an odd month?  I don’t think it was just me as most of my associates and clients reported strange glitches – from technology meltdowns to interpersonal miscommunications to professional missteps.  Whether it was coincidental, astrological or imaginary, I found that along with the challenges emerged some fascinating insights.  Most enlighteningly, I may have finally learned how to process “constructive feedback” in a balanced, healthy, non-self-kicking manner.  At first I thought it was a fluke, but of course then I got multiple opportunities to validate this newfound skill (aren’t I lucky!)  


I have to preface this by saying that along with some of the challenging experiences in September came many fantastic projects, trips and connections.  Now onto the lessons…  I was recently asked to teach a seminar about networking – the one I’ve done dozens of times – and was expecting the favorable reaction I am accustomed to.  I was going into it relaxed, confident and excited.  I certainly wasn’t counting on a roomful of how-should-I-put-it-nicely… slightly uptight, combative, socially-challenged participants.  Have you ever faced a group like that?  Not all that fun, especially if, like me, you put a ton of thought, heart and energy into your craft… And despite the undermining circumstances of this incident, I walked away feeling light and confident.  What was that about, I wondered at the time? 

Not two days went by that something similar happened AGAIN!  I taught a different workshop and this time a potential client was there to observe.  I felt a bit of healthy pressure, but overall I was prepared, comfortable and self-assured.  This time the audience seemed receptive with exception of a few tough cookies I was expecting.  I thought I handled it well as confirmed by some enthusiastic participants afterwards, and was congratulating myself for a job well-done when on my way out I ran into a serious-looking woman from the audience.  In no uncertain terms she told me that she was expecting something different.  I thanked her for the feedback and invited her to share what would have made it a better experience.  As I was walking away, I caught myself feeling grounded and at peace despite the adverse feedback – for the second time in a week!  It was shocking because in the past I found it difficult not to take negativity personally.  My former pattern went something like this:


Step 1:  Pour my heart into preparing and delivering a program

Step 2:  Listen / read feedback for indication of how I did (hold my breath and own judgment of performance until after others’ evaluation)

Step 3a:  If feedback was positive, give myself permission to be thrilled and proud

Step 3b:  If negative (or even neutral, even by one person), be perspicacious on the surface, but deep down make it question my performance and abilities

Bonus:  A dash of self-kicking for several days after. 


I know, for someone whose company helps others give and receive constructive feedback, this wasn’t a particularly exemplary way to go.  The good news is that whenever I become aware that I am not practicing what I preach, I work really hard to get back in integrity with my values. 


Here was my Aha for the month – what happens during and after an event is not nearly as important as what happens before.  It’s all about how I show up for that experience.  I’ve found out that spending a few minutes breathing and becoming centered before each engagement makes me ready to face just about anything.  There’s a fine line between owning our flaws and striving to become better AND allowing other to manipulate our sense of self worth as professionals.  How many times do we let other’s comments deflate us and meander away from our path!  For years I’ve worked on maintaining a healthy perspective regardless of feedback, and I think the other week I realized that I am finally doing that quite consistently.  Hooray! 

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