How to bounce back from a botched board presentation

Q. I recently had the opportunity to present in a board meeting. Although I prepared for the meeting, it did not go well, and I received very critical feedback from members of our board. I was upset and took it hard. Where do we go from here?

-Executive at a Fortune 100 company

Dear Executive,

I’m sorry that you are processing difficult feedback. It can be upsetting to hear criticism. When you perceive things as a personal attack it’s hard to get to the essence of what is being said.

It’s possible this was delivered in a way that was less than ideal—especially as it was not in a private setting—but it could also be possible that you interpreted the tone the wrong way. Overall, board members function to serve the company and I’m sure their intention was to help make things better. 

Regardless of whether the message was delivered in an adequate fashion, you may want to look at what was said (instead of how it was said). It’s hard to hear people tell you negative things about yourself. It’s normal for your defenses to go up, but there’s probably something that triggered the feedback you received. Getting to the bottom of it may be very insightful for all parties. Don’t let the delivery of the message prevent you from benefitting from what may be great wisdom. 

I know it’s not easy, but lean into this feedback:

Set up 1:1 meetings with the board members who voiced concern. Listen to what they have to say.

Meet with the other board members who were less vocal to get their take. See what you can learn. 

Synthesize everything and digest all this feedback with an open mind. Be honest with yourself about where there may be room for improvement. You should never be afraid of the truth. 

There’s room and reason for all of us to commit to embracing a life of learning and enlisting those around us to help us grow. Understanding that we’re never done improving will help us become better at everything we do.