There is only one thing more painful than learning from experience and that is not learning from experience.” — Archibald Macleish
A couple years ago, in the midst of managing a huge project for a quite prestigious organization, my boss called me into his office. “Megan,” he said, “I’ve got some feedback to share with you from your team. It’s not positive.”
“Oh?” I looked at him intently. “Please tell me.”
He proceeded to fill me in on how some of my direct reports were unhappy with my communication to them — keeping them informed, escalating their concerns.
I nodded throughout — I could see where there was room for improvement.
He got to the end and stared at me, a perplexed look on his face. “So… does that make sense?”
Not knowing what he wanted, I elaborated on my nodding. “Yes,” I told him, and explained my ideas for how to make things better.
He once again shook his head. “Wow, you’re really good at taking feedback.”
I smiled. “Uh yeah… ”
Why wouldn’t you be?
Oh I know it’s tough. It’s tough to hear the things you’re doing might be having a negative impact, the path you’re down the wrong one. But still… why wouldn’t you want to change it? Why wouldn’t you want to get on the right path?
Two years ago I submitted a manuscript to my editor. Actually he was an editor at the time, who responded and said that for him to take me on, I had to be open to some major modifications. I told him I was, that I didn’t mind the constructive criticism.
Many hours of work later I can honestly say that what I submitted to him then was by all accounts an essay. What I have today is a story, with dialogue, characters, scenes — all things I didn’t even know I was missing until I opened myself up to someone else’s opinion. And I’m still not done improving it!
A couple weeks ago, I submitted that story to a professional reviewer in my target audience. What do you think — no revisions suggested? Ha, I wish! Actually she suggested some pretty big changes, ones that had me trembling a bit when I first read them. Could I really take on the extra work? Could I still get this book out by Halloween, or at least the holiday shopping season?
Three days later, I’m already loving this new version. I’ve added so much more depth to the characters, in particular, myself , and have put in some scenes that really bring the story to life.
When I e-mailed this reviewer back to tell her about the adjustments, she told me that she was impressed. Most authors might give up when someone points out some flaws in their work, she said.
Nope, I thought, not me. I don’t see feedback as a letdown.
It’s an opportunity.
Are you good at taking feedback? How have you benefited from constructive criticism? Who can you count on to give it to you?