When Rejection “Works”

An interesting blog post by Auren Hoffman, CEO of LiveRamp, explored a key area of business and communication: rejection. He wrote about the importance of knowing how to deal with rejection, so that you will feel empowered to take risks, and asked people for their thoughts on how to help others learn how to handle rejection. Here is the advice I shared.

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Auren, this is one of those important nuances in communication. Thank you for bringing it up.

I believe that if you want to have people be able to accept rejection, then there are three significant ways to do so:

Be humble, emphasize Lessons Learned, and have a respectful, kind tone.

1- Be A Humble CEO. In regular conversations and team meetings, be sure to point not only to your successes, but also to ways that your decisions could be better. You can show lessons learned. In business we are always learning, refining, retooling and getting to new heights.

So first as CEOs we need to be open to self commentary on how we can be better. That creates a culture of openness where we are all improving.

2- Lessons Learned vs. Mistakes. If someone doesn’t have a good idea or makes an error, we usually try to find some part of the idea that is good.

Not all components, of all ideas, are bad. Try to point to some part of their idea that is good thinking — ie. “Thank you for diving into the social media space. You are right we need to be more aggressive there; perhaps we can still work with the idea of getting more 20-somethings involved in another way.”

It validates that some part of their idea or process was right… but not the entire idea. There is a lesson to be learned.

If someone keeps bringing up the same type of idea which doesn’t work or making similar errors, then it does become a mistake and needs to be firmly corrected.

3. Be Incredibly Respectful in Tone.

It’s really not what you say when you turn down an idea.

It’s all about how you say it.

Is it in distaste?

Or with appreciation that they are trying to build your business?

If you don’t respect an employee — even if you don’t say anything, rest assured what is in your head and heart will be “heard” by that team member.

Keep your mind gracious, clear and appreciative.

And your input should then be respected and appreciated.

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