Make Sure You Don’t Define Yourself Via Feedback

In our lives, we get feedback from others.  Positive, negative and befuddling. 

It’s too easy to let that feedback become part of our self-image, personally or even as an organization. That’s a huge mistake, because often, feedback/criticism/stereotyping is just one glimpse into the fabric of who/what you are.  It’s just an opinion. 

One of my friends works at Zynga, the social gaming company that makes Farmville and a host of other games.  They are under attack by stock market analysts and shareholders (down a third today!).  He’s succumbing to the noise and beginning to question Zynga’s brand definitions: Fun, easy, engaging, social, high quality.  He’s beginning to see the company as the leader of the ‘bubble-bust’.  That will knock his lights out as a leader.  The stock market reacts to, and does not predict a company’s destiny.

Another friend of mine, from my days at Yahoo, is going through something similar.  In her annual review, her manager told her she was too nice and too compassionate to run a group or manage a P&L.  She’s accpepted “weak” as a dimension to her professional brand.  From now on, she’ll feel like she’s failing a little bit each time she is kind, empathetic or forgiving at work.  Her inner dialogue will say, “you are successful despite your compassion.”  That’s a terrible way for her to work, and over time, she’ll likely redefine herself as “tough but fair.”  We have way too many of those grizzled types at work! 

Are you letting other’s feedback define you?  In my latest book, Today We Are Rich, I offered up a solution for this, passed down by my grandmother (watch: The Nut and Shell Technique).  I’ve always valued feedback, even when it’s negative.  It tells me something I need to know about the messenger, or in some cases, me.  But I never empower others to steal my director’s chair, and it’s this steadfast claim to my own image that gives me a sense of integrity.