The Secret to Growth and Development


Are you ready to hear honest feedback?

“I’d really like twenty-five people to provide feedback on my performance. Ten to twelve does not seem like nearly enough.”

Richard’s comment and it’s implied request really surprised me. In many years of coaching and development work, it is the rare individual who is genuinely interested in receiving feedback. And this was the first time someone had asked for more.

“Let me see what I can do,” I told him. “I’m sure the company that administers the surveys can make an exception to the total.”

After a few days we were underway in soliciting responses from a wide range of Richard’s supervisors, peers and direct reports. At his request, we even brought in two long-time friends he thought had valuable contributions to make.

It took about three weeks for the results to be provided. Richard and I met in a quiet corner of a local coffee bar so we could be free from distractions.

I opened with a question: “Have you always been so enthusiastic about receiving feedback, Richard?”

He nodded quickly. “Information services has been my whole career. Seems like I ought to value information. And I do.”

“Well it shows. In every category you test in the top ten percent versus your peer group.” I looked up to see if he gave any sign of understanding the exceptional nature of the results, but his face gave away nothing. “The subjective responses tell me that you are probably not a prodigy, that you have a deliberate work ethic that takes information and applies it.”

He didn't seem surprised. 

“So tell me the truth. These results didn't surprise you, did they.”

“No. I’ve been incorporating feedback for many years. But I was hoping you could offer something new.”

I shrugged. “Honestly, I’ve never been in a position with someone where they really don't need any coaching. So the only thing I will propose is that you consider a promotion to the next level. Your company needs guys like you at higher levels. There are not enough good ones to go around.”

We chatted for a while about options for his future. That was our last session together. Three years later I heard he had been promoted.

Seeing True

Most of us are afraid to hear feedback, and few of us seek it out. And many are afraid to provide it. Yet without feedback we cannot grow. At worst, we are stunted and our potential goes unrealized.

Seeing True in Action

A key question to ask ourselves is whether we have someone in our lives that is fearless and kind enough to routinely tell us the truth about ourselves, including both our strengths and challenges. Do not include in this those who are judgmental, critical, or condemnatory of us. These negative approaches provide little if any value.

If you do not have a source for genuine feedback, make a list of the people and means by which it can be gained. Then, make an action plan to proceed.

Updated March, 2018