How to Receive Constructive Feedback

March 8, 2016

20160224_165321-01 Receiving feedback in the workplace isn’t always easy. Sometimes it can be hard to take constructive (or negative) feedback and turn it into a positive response. If you have received feedback that was not up to your expectations, the last thing you want to do is cause an emotional outburst. Here are some top tips on how you can control yourself with negative feedback, avoid confrontation and utilize feedback to become a better employee.

  1. Let your boss express his or her ideas fully: always be sure to let your boss finish what she/he is saying and do your best to understand what is being said. Paraphrasing exactly what you are being told and making sure to let the other person finish is very important. This way you can demonstrate that you’ve heard their opinion and that they had full opportunity to express their opinion.
  2. Always evaluate feedback: Looking for particular reasons for a particular feedback you got is important. Be sure to look at the situation and examine some of the underlying aspects. If your boss has expressed feedback in an emotional outburst, for example, you may want to consider some of the other factors like he/she being under overwhelming pressure from management or poor conditions at home.
  3. Keep yourself in check: Responding to feedback with a negative response can put your job growth prospects in danger. Be sure to keep yourself in check with your nonverbal responses and with the emotion in your voice.
  4. Work to alter behavior: the only way that you can use negative feedback is to work at altering your behavior. Use feedback to find workplace goals and then avoid certain behaviors to become a more effective employee.
  5. Don’t be afraid to ask for clarification: If you are unsure of the specifics of negative feedback be sure to ask a number of clarifying questions on how you can improve or specific actions that you are doing that could be causing inefficiency. A good boss will be able to identify a number of alternatives to your behavior or to your workplace practices.

Use these top tips when receiving feedback from your boss so that you can use it to the fullest extent.

Further reading:


You choose the title of this post

July 1, 2015

Reading a magazine’s very last page and very last item sounded very familiar to me in a different context.  It quoted Emma-Jayne Winson, the first female jockey to win the Queen’s Plate, Canada’s oldest thoroghbred race, in 2007.  Here it is from May 2015 issue of Canadian Business.
wpid-20150701_121233_20150701151720977.jpg
Ask a jockey: Is it hard to build a relationship with a horse you’ve just met?

“When I took lessons, I remember complaining that I wanted to ride this horse every week, and I never got the same horse.  I always got a differet one. But being on horses that maybe I didn’t get along with taught me to be a better rider and to communicate better with animals that weren’t necessarily on the same page.  It’s amazing how you can assimilate something so simple into everyday life.”

Now relate this story to the times when you wanted certain key people in your team, but couldn’t; or had to operate with constraints that you felt were slowing you down. I believe every challenge shapes us to be bit more flexible, innovative, disciplined, collaborative and resilient.

One mantra helps instead of complaining or whining, it is change the mindset.  Accept that it is not an ideal situation (rarely idean conditions exist in any environment, be it business or social), but how can you make the best use of it and what way you are going to learn from it.  Usually, all such circumstances become good stepping stones.


How Project Managers Can Help Retain the Talented Resources

January 31, 2012

Michigan Central Train Station in Detroit

Organization rise and fall based on people involved in leading, managing and supporting.

It has become a deciding factor for success in any organization to hire, nurture and retain the great talent.  Organizations have in past gone out of way to attract key talented resources from competitors.

There might be fancy deck of powerpoint presentaton produced by HR professionals on available programs to do all that, but is it the reality on ground? Is it working?  Are key people leaving organization or moving to different department? How can you ensure the success of your initiative if key talented resources do not want to stick around? As a project manager you get to see things first hand if policies or programs are working as expected.

Also, I think, it is not only HR’s function to attract and keep talented folks but project managers play a vital role in it. Job security, clarity of direction, level of engagment, opportunities available, benefits and work environment determine how talented resource make their mind up but Project Managers can also influence talented resoureces stay by  –

  1. Marketing the project, its benefit to customer and organization along with in what way it  can help resource grow professionally;
  2. Keeping the account of talent levels of each resource’s skills, background and career goals to make informed decisions;
  3. Offering or arranging mentoring sessions & directing the focus of talented and motivated employees to groom and engage resources;
  4. Delegating in light of what resources can or can not do, level of hand holding required, comfort level in taking risk for project success;
  5. Keeping the communication lines open, first listen then guide and supervise so that resource feels connected and knows he/she makes the difference;
  6. Accepting that mistakes will be made by resources, plan accordingly and anticipate to develop future leaders and managers;
  7. Finding challenging and creative assignments for talented resources so that resources can grow;
  8. Rewarding and recommending the resources in presence of key stakeholders;
  9. Giving or arranging opportunities to attend conferences, meetings and training to sharpen their saws; and
  10. Explaining how project management fits into the life cycle of product development or any project – it’s not asking for status and producing late tasks report.

This is a list of 10 points to start your thought process, please share what else should be added.  Hope to find out from your valuable contribution through comments.  Thanks for reading.


Project Risk Management 101

October 26, 2010

Risk is a future event that may have an impact on schedule, cost or scope.  It may happen or it may not.

Image Courtesy: Open Security Architecture

While Issue is a condition or problem already occurred (or will occur for sure) that impacts schedule, cost or scope.

When Risk is realized, it becomes an issue.  It should be handled accordingly using the money set aside called Management Reserve.  A governance process is usually established to authorize the use of Management Reserve.

Risk and Issues are recorded into Risk and Issue Logs (sometimes Excel spreadsheets).  Risks are identified prior to project startup and through out the project life-cycle.  Risks are communicated to Stakeholders.  Risks when recorded should be worded such that sentences are complete and specific identifying area of impact with its  probability. Issues are prioritized and assigned.  Assigned person develops the action plan to resolve the issue.

Risk must always be assigned to someone, with a target resolution date.  Assigned person has responsibility to provide mitigation/contingency plans on how to handle Risk, if it realizes.

Severity  determines how to react to the Risk.  It can be calculated:
Severity = Probability of occurring Risk x Impact on the Project
Probability and Impact are measured in High, Medium and Low.

Mitigation plan is proactive approach; it is focused on how to mitigate or reduce the severity.  You need mitigation plan for any risk that has severity either medium or high.

Contingency plan is relative approach; it is set of predefined/contingent actions that team will take if Risk event occurs.  For any risk with high severity, you must provide contingency plan.

Four ways to handle Risks – Watch, Accept, Transfer and Mitigate.

  1. Watch – Just keep an eye (monitor regularly) the Risk but no action.
  2. Accept – Accepting the full impact  and plan accordingly
  3. Transfer – Divert the impact to another party
  4. Mitigate – Plan on how can the impact be lessened on project

Action Plan is a plan of documented actions developed in order to resolve an issue that is adversely impacting the project.  Action steps should be clear and identify outcome and deliverables from the action.

Project Manager‘s responsibility is to review the feasibility of mitigation, contingency and action plans.  Then approval is sought for the plan from governance board and then communicated to the stakeholders.  Project work plan is updated to reflect these approved risk management related changes.

Closing Risk is little tricky, mostly when risk is realized it becomes issue and risk is appropriately closed.  You need to check if this risk could re-occur?  If yes, then keep risk open and review budget for management reserve amount.  Closing issue needs confirmation that issue is resolved.  A sign-off note from customer or impacted stakeholder is also required.

Note – These are some key points that I captured sometime ago during Risk Management Refresher, hope it will help


The Dip – When to Quit and When to Stick

November 3, 2007

It was my first book from Seth Godin, and he talks about strategic quitting in this book.  Here is my own interpretation of

What is a dip – its a temporary situation when you feel like stuck, the results are not convincing and success seems impossible.  Dip can also be considered as  a situation similar to a dead-end assignment with no progress and feel like wasting time and energy.

Strategic quitting is good – when we know things won’t work out in our favor or input exceeds far beyond the value of output; quitting can be right choice. Its similar to cancelling the project or closing a business when things are not working out the way expected (no profit).

When to stick– is this goal worth pursuing or not?  Are you having fun doing this work, learning some new skills and also extracting some future benefits?  Can you treat it as sharpening your saw (skill) for the next move? Can you treat it as launch pad?  Yes, then sticking is good.

Is it possible to know if its right time to quit – personally, I do not think so.  One has to take chances.  The point is, if you quit- quit without guilt.  If you plan to stick and later find out that you are going nowhere; do not make it an issue of pride; if quitting is the right thing; just do it.  If you have some clue that you can get out of the dip and it will be great reward at the end – hang in there.

My Take – Strategic quitting is just like a well thought out Exit Plan.  Every opportunity has at least some risks involved and an exit plan is always needed.  Dip is a risk if we are not equipped and inspired to get out of it.  Risk planning tells us that we should have some contingency plan in place and build plans to avoid and react to the risk.  One size does not fit all in this case and Seth Godin does not claim to offer any formula; but gives a perspective, another option to consider.

What you think?  Did I get it right?  I am open for your suggestions.  You can find more info on Phil Windley’s Technometrial page on The Dip here.

 Thanks for reading and have a great weekend!


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