Discuss the most difficult constructive criticism or feedback you have received. How did you address it? What have you learned from it?
The above question brings to memory my early years of employment with ABC where I had been inducted as a customer service agent. In the preceding years, I had been working in web-based support and as a process trainer in, more or less, start-up environments. Prior to these employments, I had been running a small-scale transport business with seven auto-rickshaws (1) – a traditional retail business requiring “field level” skills. ABC in contrast with my earlier employers and work, was a much larger and well-established organization. I had transitioned to a knowledge-driven service industry with multiple hierarchies and an innate culture of diplomacy. My supervisors at ABC were quickly impressed with my work ethic, ability to learn quickly and intelligence. The motivation has stemmed from my enthusiasm for working in a corporation and knowing about big-business.
It had been more than six months at ABC when I was summoned for a performance review. I was expecting a very positive session since I had received very good feedback so far. My supervisors initially turned out to be quite optimistic about my future prospects and my potential. They then went on to add that there were some very serious issues I was required to resolve – (a) being more tactful (b) learning to be patient. I was informed that some senior managers has developed an impression about me as also some of my peers. I had been rated low on “likeness” factor since was a bit too direct in all my conversations – and in the field of customer service this was a very required skill. The company had been impressed with my overall ability, hard work and intelligence. However, this particular issue had come in the way of an immediate promotion and further growth in the company. I was also asked to me more patient with the “slow learners” in my team and to be tolerant of the fact that different people would have different learning curves (by then I had grown, rather informally, to a product expert when other team members started consulting me whenever they faced problems/escalations related to the customer support process)
The constructive feedback in the meeting marked a turning point in improving my softer skills. I realized that if I had to grow professionally, I would need be more tactful and master the art of communicating apt to the situation and people involved. Also, it did not always matter whether I was right. What mattered was whether I could earn enough respect from customers, colleagues and juniors for them to want me to be right. I decided to challenge myself and achieve a turnaround in this area. Since then, I have consciously asked for greater responsibilities with all my employers and delivered results in leadership roles. I have also realized that patience and faith in people has worked wonders for the growth of everyone involved.
I thus owe much of my leadership growth to that meeting. And I have always maintained very regular feedback mechanisms in my teams to ensure they know exactly where to improve upon.
Note : (1) An auto rickshaw is a motor vehicle that is one of the chief modes of local transport in India. It is a motorized version of the traditional rickshaw or velotaxi, a small three-wheeled cart driven by a person.