Archives for category: career

He that won’t be counseled can’t be helped. – Benjamin Franklin

Each year at review time, we sit down with our managers and get our yearly feedback.  For most, the majority of the feedback is positive – goals have been met, performance is strong, relationships have been developed. Then there is the “areas for development.” Our ears prick up, our heart beats a bit faster, palms might get sweaty, we are listening much more closely. As our manager ticks off these articles of criticism we feel the sting and we may start to respond defensively or hang our heads in defeat.

Here are some other choices and perspectives we can make:

First, criticism is a fact of life. We get it in our professional and our personal lives. So be prepared to receive it. Consciously we all say we like “constructive feedback” – until someone gives it to us.

Second, try not to take it personally. This is something I have been exercising recently. I was starting to let criticism “in” and allowing it to affect my self esteem. By refocusing and moving the criticism to my actions or results allowed me to look at it more objectively and respond to it better. Then I could ask myself, “Who’s offering the criticism, and are they qualified? Are they trying to help me or hurt me? Objectively, is there any truth to what they are saying?” After asking myself these questions I was in a much better position to respond in a positive way.

Third, use criticism as a learning tool. Don’t just brush off the criticism. Make sure you are receptive and think about what is being said.  Think back on your career to a time when you received critical feedback that you dismissed at that moment only later to realize was sound advice.

We all want to be right, have the best ideas and be viewed positively by our peers, bosses and reports.  Isn’t it a wonderful feeling when you have offered feedback to someone in a constructive way and they thoughtfully looked away for a second, turned back to you, smiled, and said, “What a great suggestion!  Thanks.”

[Note: This is the 10th in a 12-week series of posts that will discuss “choices” from the book Monday Morning Choices by David Cottrell.]


If you’re willing to accept failure and learn from it, if you’re willing to consider failure as a blessing in disguise and bounce back, you’ve got the potential of harnessing one of the most powerful success forces. – Joseph Sugarman

In 2002 I left a fairly successful consulting career to take over ownership of a coffeehouse in Philadelphia. I had plenty of personal reasons about why I thought this was a good idea, although I had no experience in the retail food industry. Long story short, a little under two very long, challenging, stressful years later, I had to sell the cafe and return to consulting.

Had I persisted longer would the shop been successful?  I doubt it. I believe I had persisted long enough (I know my wife definitely believed so.)  What it came down to was that this particular venture was a failure. A pretty significant one for me. At that moment I was not looking at it as an opportunity to learn as Mr. Sugarman above instructs. Honestly, I was looking to forget about it.

Surprisingly, one of my brothers provided the most insightful comments from the whole experience. He said, “Just think how much you wouldn’t have learned if you were successful.”

The truth is that when failure hits, it is tough. We all fear failure and many of our behaviors reflect that fear.  So much is written about learning from our failures and being persistent in the face of failure.  I agree. Life goes on. It took a bit for me, it still stings a little even today. I have been able to look back and gain learnings from my experience.   I think we all have that capacity.

We don’t need to always celebrate failure as some suggest.  When projects fail it sucks and we feel accountable. What we can do is create a blameless environment that allows for honest and open communication about what happened and what can we learn from it. That doesn’t only mean what will we do different next time, but also what knowledge was gained from the failure. Everyone knows the story of how Post-it notes were created. There is knowledge in failure. In that we all can gain resilience and a more persistent attitude.

[Note: This is the 6th in  a 12-week series of posts that will discuss “choices” from the book Monday Morning Choices by David Cottrell.]

[Note: This is the 5th in  a 12-week series of posts that will discuss “choices” from the book Monday Morning Choices by David Cottrell.]

You can’t build a reputation on what you are going to do – Henry Ford

How much time and energy do you spend “going to?” As in, “I’m going to speak up at the next team meeting” or “I’m going to step up when they ask who wants to manage that new project” or “I’m going to start keeping a journal like I always wanted to.”

We all have these desires and wants. This weeks choice is about taking action, or as Cottrell puts it, not vacationing on “Someday Isle.”

It’s not always easy to take action. Many times we get in our own way. Sometimes our fears stop us.  So it does take courage to step off Someday Isle and start swimming. If you are having trouble, chunk your action down. This blog (and the Internet) is full of how to get things done!

One area that is emphasized in the book is to read every day and continually improve. In a recent HBR blog post Nine Things Successful People Do Differently, Heidi Grant Halvorson writes that the #5 action is “Focus on getting better, rather than being good”

Fortunately, decades of research suggest that the belief in fixed ability is completely wrong — abilities of all kinds are profoundly malleable. Embracing the fact that you can change will allow you to make better choices, and reach your fullest potential. People whose goals are about getting better, rather than being good, take difficulty in stride, and appreciate the journey as much as the destination.

I’ve been a habitual reader for many years. About 5 years ago I took on the Personal MBA (PMBA) Reading List compiled by Josh Kaufman. Josh’s site has become much fancier than when I started, but if you want a focused list of reading material applied to becoming better at business than nothing beats Josh’s list and the support of the PMBA community.

What have you been “going to” for a while and are now ready to make the choice of action to make it happen?