What Characteristics Make Candidates Attractive? Part 2
In this ongoing series of articles I’m highlighting the types of ‘soft skills’ that make for an outstanding candidate. In the first post I talked about the importance of having a positive attitude and being an open person. This time it’s all about feedback. How much value can it have, and what impact can it make in our lives?
Recently, I watched a documentary about Michelle Obama, Becoming, and it left a huge impression on me. I started to read her memoir and any articles that I could find about her. All of this made me think about Michelle as a person: her attitude towards life, her ideas, feelings, and perceptions, the way she embraces challenges and opportunities, and how she reacts and analyses them. She’s always been open to criticism in life, and some of that criticism might even have helped make her the first lady of the United States.
In 2008, when Barack Obama was elected President for the first time. Michelle made a huge contribution to the campaign. The couple were ambitious, they dreamed big, and they entered The White House ready to accept any challenge. They also valued feedback and understood that change would be inevitable, if their popularity was to sustain. When their team of professional advisors suggested that Michelle alter her public image, they took that onboard. Where once Michelle was viewed solely as an ultra-competitive lawyer, over time people also saw that she was a beloved wife, a caring mother, an attentive daughter and a loving sister. This reinvention in the public eye helped reshape her image into the one that is much-loved today. Now, years later, she’s a rock star political celebrity.
But what does all of this have to do with being an attractive candidate?
Freedom is about choices. Choices, challenges and changes. Feedback on how we’re doing at work makes an essential contribution to our development as a professional, because it provides insight into how we and our work are assessed by our peers and superiors. Using what we learn from feedback can improve our working relationships, increase productivity and facilitate change. We also need to keep in mind that when we are talking about feedback it is not limited to that given by a manager. It can also include the people around us, be they teammates, customers, users, or interviewers.
Quite often, overconfident employees or candidates struggle to accept feedback. They see feedback as a waste of time, so they ignore it and continue to do things the way they’re used to. Others ignore feedback because they fear change. Feedback offers us an opportunity to step out of our comfort zones. But people must first be open to that.
So what does it mean to be open to feedback? Being open to feedback involves:
- Asking questions
- Listening attentively
- Showing appreciation
- Learning as much as you can
We choose what to do with feedback. We can take it into account and develop, or we can ignore it and stagnate. It all depends on our mindset. If we have a fixed mindset, it’s likely we’ll choose to defend ourselves rather than accept constructive criticism. Alternatively, if we have a growth mindset, it’s helpful to think of our abilities as soft traits which can be constantly improved.
If you want to figure out which kind of mindset you have, think about the last time you received critical feedback. How did you react? Did you defend yourself? Or did you use it as a chance to reflect and learn lessons?
If you have a fixed mindset, here are some tips to overcome it:
- Ask for more feedback
- Ask specific questions to gain insight
- Identify potential mentors among senior employees and peers
- Analyse, plan and execute changes in your approach to work
- Give effective feedback to others
- Understand that feedback doesn’t have to be a painful, negative thing. It is not intended to harm but to help
Now I would like to share some tips which can help you offer effective feedback to teammates:
- Be specific
- Be empathetic
- Don’t adopt the ‘sandwich approach’ — be as clear as possible
- Focus on performance, not personality
- Make the conversation a two-way street
- Put your ego aside
- Don’t be afraid to criticise
When professionals are truly open to feedback they are far better placed to make informed decisions about how to do their job. This helped Michelle become the First Lady of the United States, and it might just help you become whatever you want too.