You’ve just finished a presentation to a group of stakeholders. You think it went well, but you’re not sure. As you’re walking out of the conference room, your colleagues and leader pass by you offering kudos like “great job,” “awesome work,” and thumbs ups. How do you respond?
- A head nod, maybe a “yay!” You’re all smiles; it went well!
- “Oh, it was nothing!”
- “Nia did all the work; I just showed up!”
Brushing off (Choice A) and deflecting (Choices B and C) feedback are common responses to feedback like “great job” — which also means we are regularly missing out on opportunities to get the recognition and feedback we want. The good news is that there’s an easy fix, and it’s all within your control. Instead of brushing off or deflecting, try these three easy steps to turn “great job” into meaningful feedback.
Mine for Details
Did you choose Option A? Remember, if feedback is super vague, it’s super unhelpful. When our leaders or colleagues say, “great job!” and then carry on, we know something worked, but we don’t know what worked. While this overgeneralized piece of feedback is shared with good intentions (and might feel good in the moment), it isn’t helpful. Often, we play into this game by generically responding with phrases like “awesome” and “yay”! What results is an endless loop of platitudes and high fives that signal we are on the right track but offer no details on what specifically was so “great.”
Instead of walking away with a bunch of nothing, seize the moment and get the feedback you need. Follow up with a question to mine for more information. Here are a few options to consider:
- “Thanks for that feedback. What resonated with you most?”
- “I’m so glad you liked it! What’s one thing that made it (their compliment, e.g. “great”) for you?”
- Stretch yourself by sharing: “Thanks so much. I’m trying to work on my [insert skill they complimented you on]. Would you mind sharing one or two things I did that really worked for you?”
No matter which follow-up response you choose, you can count on receiving more specific feedback that will let you know what worked so that you can continue that next time. Knowing what works it just as valuable as knowing what didn’t — maybe even more.
Say Thank You
Remember the earlier example of the generic loop of “great jobs”? On its own, the well-intended, but generic feedback, is ineffective and doesn’t help us grow. To make matters worse, sometimes we deflect by brushing it off, saying things like, “Oh it was nothing.” While this reply might seem like a socially acceptable response to appear humble, it actually can rob you of the opportunity to celebrate your success and block awareness of what makes you effective. That’s a huge career staller. Next time, instead of minimizing your contributions, try saying “thank you” — and that’s it. Don’t qualify it or minimize the feedback. Just say “thank you,” and own it.
Feeling uncomfortable with compliments? Consider “thank you” as a way of acknowledging the receiver’s message, not necessarily agreeing with it. Once you get comfortable with this, stretch yourself using the follow-up questions offered in “Mine for Details” above to get the feedback you need.
Give Credit Where Credit is Due — Including Yourself
Did you choose Option C in the opening scenario? If so, this is a form of deflecting feedback. Think it’s not a big deal given the generic nature of “great job”? Think again. Sharing credit is not only the right thing to do as a team member, but it’s also a core aspect of leadership. However, when we erase our contributions in the process, we miss an opportunity to learn more about our impact and skills. What’s more, hiding our contributions could prevent others from seeing our impact, which could delay or prevent future promotions.
Next time you feel tempted to deflect feedback, focus on giving credit where credit is due — just not at the expense of erasing your contributions. Remember, we don’t run out of the ability to share credit — there’s enough for everyone! Here’s what accepting and sharing credit could sound like:
“Thank you! I’m really excited about [type of impact that was created; getting to work on this type of project, etc]. This wouldn’t have come together without [person or team] and [their specific contribution].
Not only will this allow you to highlight your contributions, but it also will shine a light on others’ contributions. As a bonus, you’ll get to showcase your leadership abilities!
Now that you have three new tips for how to respond to “great job,” let’s go back to our opening scenario. The parade of “great jobs” is passing by. How do you respond?
- Mine for details to get specifics
- Say “thank you”
- Give credit where credit is due — including yourself
Whatever your response, you’ll know that you’ll be recognized for your contributions and understand what resonated with the person providing feedback so that you can continue doing awesome work!
Which one of these tips will you focus on the next time someone says, “Great job”? Go out into the world and try just one thing. That’s all. Then come back here or message me on LinkedIn to let me know how it went. I can’t wait to cheer you on.
Dr. Jamie Crews is certified Senior HR professional with nearly two decades of public sector HR experience. She specializes in strategic talent management with an emphasis in leadership and organizational development. Jamie helped establish and now leads the County of Orange’s first Organizational Development function. As an experienced change practitioner, Jamie has led large scale organizational changes, talent development and initiatives, and served as a coach to senior leaders. She loves partnering with leaders to maximize their potential and that of their team. Her research focus is on women in leadership, with an emphasis on public sector leaders. Connect with her on LinkedIn!