One of the hardest things about collaborating with other people is that sometimes we ask for their opinions and get more than we bargain for. It can be shocking when their opinions are very different from our own. When that happens it can be frustrating! There you doing what you think is best, and feeling rather good about it. Then you get pushback that causes you to doubt your progress. To question what you’ve been doing. To see it through a new unflattering lens.

In the video below, I share a story about a client in this situation. We’ll look at what caused the problem in the first place. We’ll then look at the implications that can arise. I’ll also share strategies you can use to avoid this downward spiral in your own work.

I talked to a client recently about a situation that came up for her in working with a colleague on a project. In an earlier meeting, my client got some useful suggestions. She incorporated them into the work and was rather proud of the final product.

Then my client sent the final product back to her colleague. The reply she got was not at all what she had expected. Instead of praise, the response was a rather strong opinion of what the other person still didn’t like about it. They didn’t even seem to notice the improvements! My client was very frustrated. She felt dissed. Disappointed. With these new criticisms, she no longer felt good about the product. Now instead of seeing it as a source of pride, it seemed like a piece of junk. She didn’t know what to do next.

This is one of the very hardest things about collaborating with other people. Sometimes their opinions can be very different from our own. What looks great to us may not fit what they had in mind. Or we and they have different outcomes in mind. Or different expectations.

When that happens it can be frustrating! There you are doing what you think is best, and feeling rather good about it. Then you get pushback that causes you to doubt your progress. To question what you’ve been doing. To see it through a new unflattering lens.

If you have any wisp of Imposter Syndrome, it’s even worse. You start taking the feedback personally. You make it mean something about yourself. It becomes evidence that you’re not good at what you do. That you have no talent for this sort of thing. That you don’t really know what you’re doing. Before you know it, instead of enriching your work, as you had hoped, the input has you doubting it – and yourself.

If you want to be an Engaging Leader, my guess is that you WANT to be open to input from others. So when those ideas and opinions cause you to shut down it can be dispiriting. It feels out of alignment to say you want to engage others, but then feel awful when you do.

This is the kind of thing I help my clients with. There are three key pieces we focus on:

1) Role.

When you’re asking for input, it’s important to get clear about roles. What role are you asking from? And what role are you asking them to be in as they answer? Are you asking them to give you advice as a friend, or to look at your idea from their role as Head of Marketing? Clarifying roles is one way to align on expectations, so that the feedback you get fits what you want.

2) Goal.

What’s the goal of the feedback? Is it to get someone’s OPINION or to get their APPROVAL? What’s interesting about my client’s situation is that the project was entirely her responsibility. The colleague who was giving her the feedback wasn’t in a role where she needed to approve the final product. It was up to my client to do it any way she wanted. But she wasn’t acting that way. She was acting as though she had to follow the advice from her colleague. I see clients give away power like this over and over again. They confuse looking for advice with looking for approval or acceptance. Soliciting input or suggestions is not the same as needing approval. When people confound these, they become less likely to ask for input. Think about it. If you feel like you have to go along with every suggestion you get, of course you’ll want to limit the input!

3) Internal Executive Presence.

This is absolutely fundamental to being an engaging leader. It’s one of the first things I help my clients develop: that sense of self, owning their authority, stepping into their role with confidence. You have to be solid in yourself to be able to take the range of input, opinions and feedback that will come your way once you ask for it. You need to know what you stand for. You need to have clear boundaries and know how to assert them. You need to be clear about and comfortable with your authority. Without these pieces in place, you’ll be blown around by everyone else’s ideas. Or you’ll hunker down and avoid getting input, to avoid it. That’s why “internal executive presence” is a key ingredient to being an effective leader – one who engages and inspires people to do great work.

Internal executive presence doesn’t come naturally for most people. It’s not something you’re taught in school. But it is something you can develop.

If this is the kind of situation that trips you up and that gets in your way of being the leader you’re meant to be, let’s talk. You can schedule time with me here. We’ll get on the phone for about 45 minutes. We’ll dig into your situation and identify strategies you use to take your career to the next level. And if I can help you get there more easily, we’ll talk about what that could look like. I promise it will be one of the best conversations you’ve had about your career.

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