Previously, many moons ago at the beginning of my intrapreneur career whenever I received lemons (i.e. constructive criticism, outright negative feedback), I would simply allow the lemons to curdle and dare I say it, make me quite bitter. . .and let’s just say my “bitterness” was not going unnoticed.

So there I was becoming bitter, being sidelined for projects, colleagues parting like the red sea when it was time to ask for 360 feedback during appraisal cycles. At that point, I knew it was time to change my approach to how I handle lemons.

Step 1: Lemon Analysis

After concluding a particularly difficult project, I decided to ask my line manager for feedback and truly braced myself for the worst. However, my line manager was so shocked that I was asking for feedback, I gained an unexpected advantage as I had prepared my lessons learned log, citing what worked well, and more importantly what didn’t and how it can be improved upon. This act of lemon analysis seemed to doubly impress my line manager, and for once I felt I was a valued contributor to the conversation as opposed to feeling like a lambasted child, and do you know what? It felt good, I mean really good.

Results: By self-analysing “lemons” you demonstrate 2 things: self-awareness and the desire to be better. Both of which are fundamental characteristics for career development.

Step 2: Lemon Extraction

Here is where we get to work. We have extracted the “lemons” and we know we do not want them to fester, curdle, and make us bitter. In fact, we have been proactive and self-identified some “lemons”, and we could go a step further and ask for feedback from colleagues (be prepared for some praise as well) which makes it much more easier to receive those “lemons”.

Review all the “lemons” identified and group them into categories where there are clear synergies, e.g. “does not contribute in meetings, is a poor presenter” – both of which could be placed under “Communication” as an overall category. By grouping, the lemons into categories you are able to create a structured development plan, which includes the what, why, and how you are going to turn that lemon into lemonade.

What – Received feedback that communication is poor (especially in meetings and when presenting). Need to enhance my communication skills.

Why – By not contributing to meetings, I am considered a backseat passenger in my team which has resulted in being seen as a non-value member of the team. This in turn has meant that I have limited practice in speaking on my area of knowledge and I, therefore, struggle when presenting to my team when asked. I need to improve my communication skills in order to share my knowledge, increase my visibility, and be seen as a value-add employee with recognised potential.

How – Find and enroll in an Executive Presence workshop to enhance my overall communication skills, find a confidence coach to help me realise the knowledge resource bank I possess is 100% value add and needs to be shared with colleagues.

Results: The creation of an action-based career development plan enables you to get to work on serious areas of improvement that are hampering your career progression.

Step 3: Pour and share the Lemonade!

Once you have implemented the How, and progress is happening, your self-confidence is going up in levels, your ability to present your ideas, queries, presentations has been given the “Mr.Sheen” treatment (i.e very polished) – there s nothing left to do, other than to pour and share the lemonade you have made out of the “lemons”.

In conclusion, we can either choose to allow constructive criticism to break us, either by allowing it to fester and curdle or simply shrug it off and ignore it, neither of which will lead to career progress or self-development.

Hence why the lemon to lemonade approach, although initially might be tort – by following the above 3 step process you are on track to adopt a growth mindset, embark on fruitful career development practices, and be visible as a recognised asset, who proactively enriches organisations with lemonade!

Results: “Introducing the new and improved Value-Add, Rising Star of the Team” – tbc . . .


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