On the Job

Sheryl Sandberg’s career advice on feedback

Sheryl Sandberg, the current COO of Facebook, is a remarkable businessperson by any measure.

Not only is she the founder of the Lean In Foundation, but she served as Vice President of Global Online Sales and Operations at Google, and is the bestselling author of the book Lean In. It’s probably no surprise that people seek out Sheryl all the time to ask her about the lessons she’s learned over the long course of her extremely successful career.

During a recent visit to Airbnb’s headquarters in San Francisco, Sheryl spoke about some of these lessons. But, while there are many things that people can do to advance their careers, according to Sheryl, there is one thing in particular that leaders look for when considering whether or not an employee has the ability to grow and advance with the company. “Someone who takes feedback well,” said Sheryl. “Because people who can take feedback well are people who can learn and grow quickly.”

It’s no secret that the speed of business continues to increase, and markets and competitors are changing faster than ever. To keep up with—and get ahead of—these changes requires employees to constantly improve the way they do things. And this requires employees to have the ability to receive constructive criticism in a positive way, incorporate the feedback, and quickly change course.

Unfortunately, many of us take feedback from our managers as a negative and not a positive. This is a mistake. The reason for this negative reaction to feedback is largely due to our emotional response—many of us are unable to separate emotions from business, especially when we’ve invested a lot of our time, energy, and passion into our work. We take feedback—no matter how sincerely given—as a personal attack instead of what it really is: an opportunity to improve and to become more valuable to our employer, our customers, and our coworkers.

Feedback is truly a gift.

So, when we receive feedback from our boss or others on the job, how can we neutralize the emotional reaction we feel deep inside?

I suggest that the best approach is taking feedback and constructive criticism as a compliment. If people did not think that your work had the potential to be great, they wouldn’t bother with giving you feedback at all. People naturally will only try to improve things that they think will ultimately be worth their time.

Next time you encounter an initial negative emotional response to feedback you receive on the job, keep Sheryl Sandberg’s advice in mind. Take the feedback with gratitude. Change your approach. And transform your work from good—to great.

Tags: | | |