Searching for the rain on a sunny day
No, I'm not depressed. By "rain", I mean somebody taking the time to give you negative feedback on something you have done, produced or even thought about.
Today is a Monday and it is the evening. I have spent much of the weekend fretting over a piece of work on a project which had a deadline today. I felt out of my depths, determined to prove myself and unwilling to accept I didn't know what I was doing. This is a toxic combination which usually ends with me falling on my own sword and today is no exception. The big meeting arrived and we managed to wing it. Huge sigh of relief but it was by no means perfect and it could have been a lot better. I could have done a lot better.
The person I was working with on this project, who was there every step of the way, was the CEO and founder of the wonderful company I work for. Me screwing up would literally have been on his head and the stakes were stacked on this occasion. Anyway, as I said we managed to wing it and the clients walked away pretty happy. Then, at the end of the day, said founder and CEO asked if I had a few minutes to talk in a private room. He sat me down and asked me what I had learnt from that experience. Slightly taken aback, I thought about it and realised I had learnt an awful lot. He made me list all my lessons and then asked me what I would have done differently. Then he proceeded to tell me how he knew I was going to fail and could see it happening but chose to let me fall on my own sword instead of rescuing me. Ultimately he had ended up sacrificing hours of his Sunday night to save the project and, it transpires, to teach me a lesson.
Others may have walked away from this "sit-down" slightly guilty and dejected. I had quite the opposite reaction. I skipped home feeling elated and full of tremendous joy and warmth. An energy coursed through me that I hadn't felt for days and I arrived home, happy and nourished. Whether this is true or not, the way I interpreted the whole experience was that he had invested his time and energy in me because he thought I could do it better next time. He could have saved me from the mistakes he knew I would make but instead he let me make them. Then he took time to go through them one by one and make me come to my own conclusions about how I could have avoided them. He didn't criticise me personally and I felt sure that this had nothing to do with my will or desire to get it right. That would have been a very different conversation!
The reason I seek out rain on a sunny day is that I feel humbled and honoured when anybody dares to or takes the time to criticise something I have done. It's a brave thing to do and can often backfire because I think most people don't really "love" it. However, without it, I am left to figure it out myself and quite often become paranoid and jump to the wrong conclusions. I also mistrust wholly positive feedback. No one is perfect, most encounters and endeavors could be improved, and so I wonder what is being withheld when nothing is said. Then there are those who say it badly - often in front of other people and in a derogatory manner which critiques the person, not the behaviour or action.
I'll leave you with this; be brave and tell someone you think they could have done something better. It's one of the greatest compliments to insinuate there was room for improvement because your standards for them are higher than that.