Although it may feel awful to hear things about you or your business that you don’t like, it’s very important for your long-term success. There will be points in time when clients or other contractors give you constructive feedback that is designed to help you in the future. Whether you can turn it into an improvement is up to you. Here are five things you can do.
- Listen Closely
A lot of people participate in a conversation mostly for the things they have to say, not for the things they have to hear. If a client or a fellow contractor wants to give you some timely criticism, you should listen to all of it. It’s hard to sit quietly and not interrupt someone who is telling you something that you didn’t do particularly well. But if you can get through this part, you’re more likely to have a positive result. If nothing, it lets you receive the information without the burden of feeling like you need to craft a response off-the-cuff.
- Avoid Arguing
Nobody is excited to learn what they may have done wrong on a project. But as tempting as it might be to correct what you see as someone’s misinterpretation of your work or processes, it’s better if you keep it to yourself. It is entirely possible that someone is criticizing you for something that is a matter of opinion or even inaccurate. But by arguing with them, all you do is make it into a bigger issue. In most cases, what people are looking for when they give you feedback is validation that you have heard it. Arguing with them about the validity of their claims does not meet that condition.
- Get Clarification
Once you have allowed someone to finish what they have to say, you may realize that their feedback is unclear. Sometimes, people are so worried about causing a conflict that they may give criticism that is so vague that you can’t actually do anything with it. If you have the opportunity and you feel like you can do it without arguing with them, ask for clarification on one or two specific points. Ask questions like:
- Did you notice this problem frequently or on occasion?
- Can you relate this to a specific instance?
- Could you tell me more about what you mean?
It’s crucial not to use these questions to lead the person into changing their claims. Your goal here should only be to round out your understanding of the way that they see the problem.
- Ask for Input
When you take constructive criticism, it is important to keep in mind that there are usually multiple right ways of doing something. This means that a client or colleague might perceive that you have done something wrong, when you simply have done it differently than they prefer. However, you should also remember that this does not make them wrong, either. Ask them for input on a different approach that would have avoided the issue in the first place. This gives you a number of options that you can choose to employ when you encounter a similar situation next time.
- Evaluate Changes After the Conversation
Once you have finished the conversation, it’s useful to give yourself a little time to relax over it before you evaluate any big changes you may want to make. In some cases, a mistake was so obvious that you already know exactly what you should do differently. In other cases, where there are multiple right answers, you may need to do some digging. This is a good opportunity two invest some time researching and consulting with people in your field. You may hear similar stories with good solutions, or come away with better insight into improvements you can make.
Running your own business involves learning from your mistakes, sometimes in a very direct way. By opening your mind to the benefits of constructive criticism, you can improve your contracting business and make the next project work better. For more information about starting a career as a licensed contractor, contact CSLS today!