Soliciting regular feedback was the single greatest driver of “Aha” moments in my personal and professional life last year. Feedback, particularly constructive, can be uncomfortable. Leaning into that pain supercharges growth. I’m sharing the top three pieces of professional feedback I received last year in that hope that we all become more willing to have these kinds of conversations in 2018.
Listen First, Talk Second
As a Data Scientist at Crisis Text Line, I collaborate frequently with our different teams: Supervision, Coaching, Product, Management, Tech etc. I’m eager to drive these conversations; to lead with Data and ask questions second. Earlier this year my manager sat in on a meeting I was running with some members of our Supervision team. Although the goal of the meeting was to understand a particular Supervisor pain point from their point of view, I spoke a majority of the time. After the meeting, my manager offered this advice: listen first, talk second.
His words struck a chord. One of the foundational concepts of Crisis Counseling is active listening. It enables our counselors to empathically support thousands of strangers in crisis every day. That same approach resonates in the business world. By stepping back, listening to other team members’ perspectives, hearing their pain, probing with questions, and then responding, there’s a greater opportunity for alignment. It creates a horizontal power structure where participants are partners in searching for solutions.
I’ve begun incorporating this feedback into my collaborative work with great success. The side benefit of emphasizing a listen-first approach is how it builds trust and strengthens coworker relationships. Trust unlocks a happier work space and more effective collaboration.
Every Disagreement is an Opportunity for Alignment
Crisis Text Line takes an unconventional approach to product development. We encourage every staff member, no matter their role, to propose new products. Ideas are vetted by our product development team and presented in a weekly all-staff meeting in the form of a brief (3-page summary document). There, products are fleshed out and prioritized.
Two months ago, I presented a brief rethinking one of our core products. There was some disagreement around one aspect of my proposal. At first, I felt defensive. I had put hours into honing the product, talking with different teams, and recommending what I felt was the ideal solution. After the meeting, my manager sent me a Slack: every disagreement is an opportunity for alignment.
Disagreement, just like constructive feedback, can be painful (particularly in a public forum). Since hearing this feedback, I’ve found the best response is to lean into disagreement. By listening and asking questions, you can identify the source and brainstorm solutions together. Both sides feel heard and, hopefully, become advocates of the new proposal.
Positive Attitudes Enable Growth Mindsets
Coworkers have told me I have a positive attitude. Happily, I’d agree and argue that my positive attitude makes me resilient.
We all have some frustrating days at work. Those who choose to see each setback, roadblock, or piece of constructive feedback as a new opportunity set themselves up for growth. By diagnosing failures, we cement learnings and level-up for the challenge ahead. This same logic applies to organizations, too. Those that cultivate positivity learn quicker and empower their employees to face challenges with less fear of failure. This resiliency supercharges growth.
Thank you for reading. Cheers to 2018.