Careers

Why getting negative feedback is the ultimate compliment

Meryl Streep as Miranda Priestly in "The Devil Wears Prada."
Source: 20 Century Fox
Meryl Streep as Miranda Priestly in "The Devil Wears Prada."

Criticism can be hard to take, even if it's "constructive", but best-selling author Dambisa Moyo told CNBC it's one of the most valuable gifts you can receive.

"Ultimately, we are not entitled to feedback. If someone gives you critical feedback, rather than get upset, think about what it took for that person to tell you that piece of feedback," the Zambian-born global economist told CNBC during a Life Hacks Live interview at the Ambrosetti Forum in Lake Como, Italy.

Moyo serves on several corporate boards for businesses such as Barclays and Chevron, where her role is to provide critical feedback and advice on company decisions. Seeing how well this collaborative approach works for big businesses, Moyo has applied it to her own professional development.

"I have a board of directors for myself," she told CNBC.

The people who make up Moyo's personal board of directors are "from different parts of the world" and have a diverse range of specialized backgrounds, but the one thing the global economist says they have in common is that they are people she can trust to give critical advice.

"We need to find our own mentors, and pursue the idea of getting critical feedback," she explained. "Too often people end up with mentors who don't want to give negative feedback and it's actually not a good thing, it's to your detriment."

In Moyo's view, cutting yourself off from constructive or negative feedback is tantamount to stunting your personal and professional growth, "people's capacity for self-delusion is enormous, and I wake up sometimes and I think, 'what might I be deluding myself on'. It's really important to constantly road-test yourself and make sure you're getting critical feedback, particularly where careers are concerned."

But half of the battle is actually being open to feedback, and letting people around you know that you won't react badly if they come to you with constructive criticism.

"People will only give you critical feedback and be mentors to you if you give them the space to give you feedback," she said.

'No doesn't mean never, it means not now'

Taking criticism is difficult, but dealing with outright rejection is even harder. When you're trying to build a career though, being told "no" a few times is unavoidable. Moving away from her home in Zambia in order to pursue her academic studies, Moyo had to deal with rapid change early on in life and has dealt with her fair share of professional setbacks while building her international brand. Rather than being discouraged by rejection though, Moyo said her top tip for anyone just starting out is that "no doesn't mean never, it means not now."

"People should not be discouraged because they got a 'no', it just means that they might have to work harder or differently," she added.

Life Hacks Live is a series produced by CNBC International for Facebook, where tomorrow's leaders get to ask some of the world's biggest influencers for advice. You can watch the full interview here.