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Feedback Is a Gift, Even When It Is Hard To Hear

March 11, 2021

Free Man in Professional Clothing Reading a Resume Stock Photo


I live and operate in a professional world where feedback is a part of life. I am fortunate to surround myself with people who pay for the privilege to hear what others have to say about their business, their decisions, and their actions. It is not always easy to hear even though we know we need it. However, the best leaders I know, welcome honest, objective, and constructive feedback. If all you ever want is to hear is how smart and wonderful you are, you’re really missing the point of leadership.  It is about making the best decisions not assuming pride in authorship.

When was the last time someone told you the unvarnished truth? Is there anybody in your professional circle who will call you to the carpet for your actions and behavior? Who do you bounce new ideas off of? What group of peers keeps you focused? While I am an enthusiastic fan of Ralph Waldo Emerson, I don’t completely subscribe to his “self-reliant man” theory.   Either did he, when you uncover the material support he provided for many others throughout his life.  Sure, you need to take responsibility for your actions and bring your best efforts to whatever situation you find yourself in. You also should never play the role of victim. However, no one person has it all figured out. The smartest and best leaders I know are not only open to feedback but regularly solicit it. One of the main reasons I see a business that stops growing is because the leader stops seeking and listening to advice and feedback that he/she doesn’t want to hear.  Or, even worse, they attack the messenger so that no one is willing to speak the truth to power.

It’s easy to get excited about ideas, especially when you feel your back is against the wall (like the current COVID environment). It’s also a lot more fun to design, create and build than to pause, reflect, reconsider, and possibly say ‘no.” I haven’t yet met an entrepreneur who is short on ideas or creative tactics.  It is who they are and what they do. The danger is operating this way in a bubble. Thinking that your ideas are always the best ideas is illogical. Not doing your homework or looking for contradictory evidence can leave you vulnerable. Being minimally concerned can be dangerous. Thinking there is some home run strategy that will change everything overnight may be hopeful but is often unwise. I’m not saying that some people don’t get lucky, but a lot more businesses go off a cliff of their own making than find their “silver bullet” strategy.  I’ve also seen far too many leaders trying to fast forward results because of a past track record that didn’t quite live up to their own expectations. Accelerating momentum without a clear path ahead of you will inevitably take you off the rails.  Others will see the obstacles ahead of you that you don’t or will tend to downplay.

The good news is that I guarantee you there are people out there willing to help. They may be people you already know or people you still need to meet. There are fellow entrepreneurs and business people who would like to share their experiences. I lead multiple leadership peer groups for Vistage international which is just one of many vehicles out there to provide this type of support. There are many professional advisors who care about their clients and want them to make good decisions. There are friends and colleagues who you trust implicitly, who only want the best for you. You just need to ask for their help and listen to their advice. You may still do what you want to do anyway, but at least you’ve broadened your knowledge base and better understand the consequences of your actions.  Feedback, while not always easy to hear, is a gift and should be viewed as such. Thankfully, it is a gift you can seek out and give yourself on a regular basis.