During my days at the Tom Peters Company, I once gave an overview to prospective clients of Terry Pearce‘s program, Leading Out Loud, which was all about authentic leadership communication. (And, to this day, probably the best program of its kind–offered nowadays by BlessingWhite).
Afterward, one of the participants came up to me and said that, while he enjoyed my presentation–that I spoke well, used slides well, was funny and entertaining, etc.–he didn’t think I’d really modeled what I was teaching. Which is very tough feedback when the topic is authenticity, you know?
Needless to say, I was devastated, and I fretted and obsessed about it for the rest of the day. Was that guy right? Was it true? I’d felt like I was being myself; at least, I seemed real to me. But had I been coming across as disingenuous, or even–heaven forbid–cheesy?
That evening, I called Terry–the master himself–told him what had happened and asked for his counsel.
He said two things to me which literally changed everything about the way I’ve approached my work since:
1. You can’t connect with everybody all the time. Sometimes people just aren’t going to “get” you, and this guy just may have been wrong.
2. Assume he was right and go from there.
That’s become one of my personal gems of life-altering advice: whenever you get negative feedback, understand that it may be wrong/misguided/untrue, etc. But if you assume (for a moment, at least) that it’s right, what could you do differently from now on?
What’s the best bit of advice, coaching or counsel you’ve ever gotten from a mentor, colleague, family member or friend? We’ve been talking about this at the Greater Than Yourself (GTY) Project group on Linkedin. Please join us there or add your contribution in the comments section below.
More to come on this topic soon…
Janine McBee says
Steve, thank you for being vunerable. Negative feedback can hurt and tends to be remembered longer than positive statements. Reaching out to a mentor who will not sugar coat discussion is a great example of how to pay attention and learn from feedback. The advice you received and shared is also a wonderful reminder of how to process feedback (good or bad). We alway have room to improve and do better. When we stop paying attention and stop learning is when we need to be concerned.
Greater than Yourself is also a great message. Through collaboration, mentoring, leadership, sharing, and relationships, people can acomplish great things, including making the world a better place.
Lonnie Baxley says
I like what I hear about the Greater than Yourself concept that Steve promotes.
In the 90s when I was teaching at the local university, I tried to get the students to thinking outside the box by stressing that they were the product of the process. It is documented on my blog
This is an extract from the blog:
“I tried to get the students to thinking outside the box, by words similar to the following: “You are Customers, because you or someone is paying for this education, so I must think of you as Very Important Customers. You are also Partners in the learning Process, since you contribute to the learning process and environment. But most important is you are the Product of the Process and your investment is dependent on your Ownership of the Product. So if you concern yourself with the Product you shouldn’t have to worry about the tests.” Each class would get a variation of this.”
I also suggest that we include the “Spirit” into the process of striving to making others greater than ourselves. There has to be from my experience something that is greater than ourselves which is an important ingredient in our endeavors and it behooves us to recognize it. This is depicted in the diagram in this blog http://bcswonline.blogspot.com/2008/03/innovation-customer.html. Also, the concept of Serving others is expressed in this blog http://bcswonline.blogspot.com/2008/03/sin-vs-acts.html. My thinking is that this also applies to business and other relationships, not just religious context.
“Quality comes from Ownership with Integrity and appropriate Resources in a healthy Paradigm – lhb” We all should strive to make healthy Paradigms. Food luck on your venture of GTY.
Lonnie Baxley says
Previous entry should have been “Good luck on your venture of GTY” not “Food luck….”
Dr. Kervokian says
As a practitioner, there’s another way to look at negative feedback -> at what level of hierarchy does it come from.
If it’s higher than you, then they must be right “regardless”. However, it doesn’t mean that you have to obsequiously turn 180 on what you just said. That’ll make you look weak, an easy pushover.
Kindly note down the statement and seek confirmation and explanation within closed doors. Not only can you explain your side of the coin; you could also learn from the comment, especially when it’s genuinely presented with your, or the organization’s interest in mind.
Not everyone means that unfortunately; at the risk of sounding like a cynic; people tend to give negative feedback as an end in it self. Because it’s just so easy to put down an idea.
Rick Smith says
One of the best bits of advice I received was from Bono, whom i was fortunate enough to have dinner with a few years ago. Bono noted that much of what he does, much of what we ALL do, is simply hard work. the blocking and tackling of life. “But that there are moments…when i sit down to write music… and it just comes through me. That is when you know you are doing what you are supposed to be doing with your life. Go find that place…” Great advice, and a great goal to guide life direction.
Negative feedbacks sometimes discourages me. But, after reading this post, i shall be able to handle negative feedbacks.
David Bennett says
Thank you. What you shared is dead on. I had a similar experience a few years back with a close friend. Of course I completely disagreed with him and did the natural thing….I went and tested his comments’ legitimacy with my mentors, wife and select family members. I got all of the “That’s crazy!”, “There’s no way that’s true!”, and “What is he smokin’!?” comments, which made me feel better. Over time I began to see that his comments were true, which caused me to make some important changes in my life and how I communicated with others. Thank God for honest people.
Dana E. Jarvis, MPA, MSW says
What’s the best bit of advice, coaching or counsel you’ve ever gotten from a mentor, colleague, family member or friend? This is a great question Steve.
While working on a management consulting project years ago, I provided too much detail in a training. The client expressed that I fell into the “Analysis Paralysis” trap. I over prepared and tried to do too much in the training. It was solid feedback, which allowed me to improve. I took it seriously and have been mindful of it moving forward. Sure it was tough to hear but I needed to hear it to improve. These days I continue to write, speak and teach with ongoing insights located at http://www.danajarvis.org.