How to effectively process constructive criticism 


There will come a time — many times, more likely — when leaders and team members alike will come up against feedback that isn’t glowing with positivity. It’s natural to bristle a little bit at any criticism, big or small. When it comes to handling this criticism, the advice is almost always: don’t let your emotions get the better of you. Of course, this is true, but in the heat of the moment it can be difficult to react rationally. So, how can you receive feedback in a way that is helpful but not all consuming? 

THREE things to know 

All feedback is an opportunity for growth 

It may sound like a cheesy line, but it’s true. Instead of seeing feedback as criticism, change your mindset to see it as an opportunity to do better next time. If the criticism is coming from the right place and is being said with the team’s best interests at heart, then it should be focused on making the team, as a whole, better. 

Feedback is professional, not personal

Many of us have different personas for different areas of our lives. It’s an important part of being human — compartmentalising so that you can focus on work while you’re at work and put it aside when you’re at home. It’s important to remember that feedback that is given to you as a leader is only given to you as the leader. It’s hard not to take comments personally but it is important to remember that professional feedback is not personal. 

It’s important to understand context 

Has it been a stressful day for everyone in the team? Are tensions running high? Has the person delivering the feedback had a tough time recently? Try to understand their perspective to understand where the comments and feedback are coming from. It’s important to take all feedback seriously but it’s also important to understand that personal opinions and experiences can play heavily into how the feedback is given. 

THREE things to do 

Foster trust within your team 

A team that has a strong foundation of trust will be a team that feels they are able to give and receive feedback without causing offence. It’s hard not to take things personally but when everyone within a team trusts one another, it’s easy to take it professionally, rather than to heart. 

Understand the action points 

When something isn’t working, it’s a good idea to ask yourself how you can fix it. The same goes for when someone gives you a piece of constructive criticism. Look for the action points within their words so that you can move forward. If you can’t easily understand what they would like you to change, then ask the question! 

Talk it out 

Many people are overthinkers. Try to stamp out the overthinking by simply talking it out with a trusted source. Perhaps it’s a friend, a partner, a coach or mentor. Whoever it is, give yourself time to process your thoughts aloud, so that you don’t spend several sleepless nights dreaming up the worst case scenario. Often, those you trust — who are outside of the team — will have a more objective outlook, allowing you to see the picture a little clearer. 

Are you ready to make the most of constructive criticism? People Make the Difference can help. To find out more, visit or call us on 0412 333 415. Try our online leadership training videos – $99 for complete access. Great value if you’re committed to growing your leadership potential.