I'd like to look at how we do or should or could react to the feedback we get on the projects we manage. We don't always get feedback - and that can be frustrating. And sometimes we only get the negative feedback and that can be even more frustrating...but helpful. PMs are notorious for getting few accolades but when it comes to pointing out the bad, there can often be a long line.

I'd like to look at how we might or should react to negative feedback, in my opinion. Let's examine closer...

When receiving and reacting to negative feedback

Don't lie.

Reputation and integrity is everything for the project manager. Never, ever lie as a project manager. If you're caught in a lie it can ruin your reputation and will likely end the current project you're working on - at least as far as you're concerned anyway. You must remain above reproach.

Don't promise what you can't deliver on.

If you can't do it, you can't do it. You'll have to come clean later so just be honest now if you know it's not possible. Never set unreasonable expectations for the client that you can't deliver on.

Ask for clarification on anything you don't understand.

It isn't at all productive to get mad, clam up, or completely discount what is being said. If someone has something negative to say, you should want to know it and hear it - whether you think it's true or not. If you hear something negative about your performance or decision or action, etc., try to go to the source and get more information. You want to understand their concern. Right or wrong, you don't want it to end there. You might learn from it if they are correct, and you might be able to turn around a perception if there was some miscommunication that led to the negative feedback.

Don't bluff - admit if you don't know the answer.

If you were wrong - own it. Admit any wrongdoing. Admit your shortcomings. Admit ignorance. It's ok to say, 'I don't know.” You will become more respected for it. It shows an understanding and a willingness to learn.

Don't react emotionally.

Always, always, always remain in control of your emotions. Take a deep breath. Count to 10 if you have to. But remain in control. If you lose it responding to critical feedback you will lose the customer forever.

Be professional, take some time, and formulate a professional-sounding response. It's easier if you're getting and receiving this feedback via email because you can take time to formulate a response. Being caught off guard face to face with negative feedback can cause you to respond quickly and emotionally. Don't do it. And don't try to reverse the blame in your comeback. Accept what is said and either respond with a positive and possibly corrective response or let them know you'll respond soon.

Don't blame pass the blame.

Always accept the blame. If it was definitely your fault, that's a no-brainer. But if it pertains to something you were leading and not directly attributable to you, it's still best to accept responsibility. Go down with the ship - you'll gain lots of respect for it.

If perceptions are inaccurate, correct them with tact.

If you receive feedback that is inaccurate, be tactful in how you respond. Never try to make the client feel ignorant - it will never serve you well to make the client look bad.

Stress that you will follow-up quickly.

Always respond to negative feedback positively. State that you're going to follow up on the client's concern and give them a date when they should expect a response from you.

Different ways to react and respond - trying to maintain a constructive nature to all of it. Now I'll examine my thoughts on the rarer side of the coin....receiving and reacting to positive feedback on our projects and performance.

When receiving and reacting to positive feedback

Listen carefully.

Everything you're being told is a positive. And I mean positive enough that someone took the time to give out praise. Think about the times you've had good customer service and bad customer service. You're far more likely to have said something to management if things went poorly than if things went well. So if you are hearing praise listen carefully, take heed, write it down. These things were apparently so important to the customer that they wanted to share them. So be sure to repeat these things on the next project. You may not get praise the next time around, but it's likely going to be one of the factors in what is making your next project customer happy - even if they don't say it.

Share praise liberally.

Put your ego in check - even if it WAS all you. Be sure to share the praise liberally - with any team that worked with you, with the customer's team that worked with you, and any outside help you may have received. Don't gloat and take all the praise for yourself. It is definitely frowned upon, no matter how good you are.