Feedback keeps you sharp. All professionals should be thankful for authentic and well-meaning feedback. It’s a way to gauge our performance, impact, and influence. Good or bad feedback is useful, when it comes from someone we respect. Companies pay $millions to research what their customers are thinking, and yet, as consultants we often get feedback for free. We ask our clients and our partners:
- How do you think that went?
- I was thinking about ABC approach, what are your thoughts?
- Do you think we should run it by XYZ, or is it okay to send out by ourselves?
- How do you think Jackie is doing? Any feedback for her?
It can hurt. Consultants are used to being top-performers. A whole generation of millennials grew up getting huge trophies for small feats (yes, I said it) and love to be at the top of the list. Hearing that you were average is tough to hear. Too often, feedback is given at the wrong time, or in the wrong way. It’s not communicated in a spirit of improvement, but more in frustration or chastisement. Not good
Great firms expect a lot from their people. Working nights and weekends are common because we do not want to disappoint our clients or our peers. As managers, we need to let our people know what we expect. They might be thinking consultant-level work, when we are thinking of them as a manager-candidate.
Give yourself feedback. There are probably 3 things you do everyday that are great (should keep doing), and 3 things you need to improve (stop doing). In many ways, you don’t even need anyone to tell you. Tell yourself. For me, my 3 points of self-feedback:
- Pick up the phone when making logistics / meeting plans; email is bad
- When on a conference call, waiting for other people to join, don’t chit-chat at all
- Acknowledge people (good job) with their bosses; I sent 3 “good job” emails today
It requires trust. I give feedback to my teams daily. Some is minor – “good job” on the powerpoint. Some is major – “this is only 30% complete”. For me (only 1 consultant talking), you have to create a climate of trust where people feel safe speaking honestly about good and bad things.
“People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care” – Theodore Roosevelt
Don’t take it personally. If a jerk gives your “feedback”, store it in a mental filing cabinet, and lock it away. Does not apply to you. You place value (high or low) on the feedback depending on your respect for the person.
Some people are dense. There are some people who don’t get it. Yes, when I said that, someone’s face popped into your head. Yes, that person. Yes, some people. . no matter how many different ways you tell them they need to improve, they don’t get it.
When you find a consultant who say they are not getting enough feedback on their performance, two things are probably happening. Their manager is a bit of a coward, too afraid to be authentic and tell them anything AND the person is not listening.
Reality check: if you get multiple data points of feedback on the same topic. . . that is a trend and it’s very possible YOU are the problem. Don’t be the dense one.