We all love receiving glowing compliments about our work. But we don’t always love the sting of less-than-positive feedback that we occasionally get from a boss or coworker. While compliments are lovely and feed our egos, constructive criticism is a true gift. After a long career, I remember each of these sometime difficult conversations vividly. I improved my presence, communications and leadership as a result of them. Over time, I learned how important it was to seek out feedback if it wasn’t automatically offered.

Constructive CriticismWe will never reach our full potential if we only hear how wonderful we are. We grow and expand our capabilities by listening and learning from others. A trusted advisor, friend or colleague tells us the truth if we ask them. Hopefully, you have a manager who tells you how you can improve. If you don’t, ask. It’s far better to hear the criticism from your manager than hear coworkers telling others about a problem with your work. Most importantly, once you received feedback, do something about it.

As a manager, I can say that employees who reflect on and adjust their actions based on honest feedback are joys to work with. I recently managed a stellar employee who would not accept my gift of constructive criticism. She became defensive instead of simply saying, “Thanks for the suggestions, let me rethink this and get back to you.” An otherwise top performer became a liability because she wasn’t open to other people’s ideas and suggestions for improvement.

When you offer constructive criticism, make your comments timely, specific and constructive. Be respectful of the other person, and explain why your idea or suggestion might be preferable. Be ready to listen and discuss. A positive two-way conversation is the best path toward improvement.

You can learn from both receiving and offering the gift of feedback. Seek it out, and appreciate the power of self-improvement and in helping others do the same.