When reacting to negative Project Management feedback:
Ask for clarification on anything you don’t understand.
Taking your toys and going home never helps. If you hear something negative about your performance or decision or action, etc., try to go to the source and get more information. You want to understand their concern. Right or wrong, you don’t want it to end there. You might learn from it if they are correct, and you might be able to turn around a perception if there was some miscommunication that led to the negative project management feedback.
Don’t bluff – admit if you don’t know the answer.
Admit any wrongdoing. Admit your shortcomings. Admit ignorance. It’s ok to say, “I don’t know.” It shows an understanding and a willingness to learn.
Never, ever lie as a project manager. If you’re caught in a lie it can ruin your reputation and will likely end the current project you’re working on – at least as far as you’re concerned anyway. You must remain above reproach.
Don’t blame the situation on other people or circumstances.
Always accept the blame. If it was definitely your fault, that’s a no-brainer. But if it pertains to something you were leading and not directly attributable to you, it’s still best to accept responsibility. Go down with the ship – you’ll gain lots of respect for it.
Don’t promise anything you know you can’t deliver.
This goes along with lying. If you can’t do it, you can’t do it. You’ll have to come clean later so just be honest now if you know it’s not possible. Never set unreasonable expectations for the client that you can’t deliver on.
Correct misconceptions tactfully.
If you receive feedback that is inaccurate, be tactful in how you respond. Never try to make the client feel ignorant – it won’t serve you well…ever.
Confirm your intention to investigate any complaints.
Always respond to negative feedback positively. State that you’re going to follow up on the client’s concern and give them a date when they should expect a response from you.
Don’t react emotionally.
Always, always, always remain in control of your emotions. Take a deep breath. Count to 10 if you have to. But remain in control. If you lose it responding to critical feedback you will lose the customer forever. Be professional, take some time, and formulate a professional-sounding response. It’s easier if you’re getting and receiving this feedback via email because you can take time to formulate a response. Being caught off guard face to face with negative feedback can cause you to respond quickly and emotionally. Don’t do it. And don’t try to reverse the blame in your comeback. Accept what is said and either respond with a positive and possibly corrective response or let them know you’ll respond soon.
On the flip side we sometimes – hopefully often! – receive positive feedback. It’s very important that you accept and respond to this type of feedback appropriately as well.
When reacting to positive feedback:
Share praise liberally.
Put your ego in check – even if it WAS all you. Be sure to share the praise liberally – with any team that worked with you, with the customer’s team that worked with you, and any outside help you may have received. Don’t gloat and take all the praise for yourself. It is definitely frowned upon, no matter how good you are.
Don’t be too self-effacing (“really, it was nothing”, “I guess I lucked out”).
And on the flip side, don’t brush it off too much or it won’t sound sincere. If it’s a big deal, accept it like it is a big deal. But acknowledge how important the project was or is and be sure to acknowledge the efforts of others who helped make success possible.
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About the author: Brad Egeland is an IT/PM & Business Strategy consultant and author with over 25 years of software development, management, and project management experience. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or you can visit his website at www.bradegeland.com.