A lot of people shy away from direct and honest feedback. Not me. I love it. If I suck I want to know as quickly as possible and I want to know why so I can make the adjustment and get better. Maybe it’s because I grew up in Boston where we have a reputation for being direct and telling it like it is but I don’t see the point in giving or getting feedback any other way. How else can we improve if someone isn’t going to be honest with us and tell it like it is, no matter how hard it might be to digest at the time? We should constantly be asking for feedback from everyone around us.
The biggest lessons I’ve ever learned were from feedback I received after I lost. For example, when my company Thrive Networks got bought by Staples I was ultimately “offered another position” (i.e. fired) by the guy who was 2nd from the top and ran a $12B portion of their business. After I had left the company I called him up to ask if he would be open to meeting with me and giving me insight into his perception of me and what really happened from his perspective. I couldn’t believe how open he was to meeting with me and how appreciative he was of my approach. He spent over an hour giving me very direct feedback and advice that I continue to leverage to this day. He ultimately ended up being a reference for me when I went to work for Jack Welch and told Jack he would be making a great choice if he hired me.
We should try to create an environment with the people around you of continuous feedback and improvement. Whether it’s our boss, colleagues, customers, family or anyone else that has an opportunity to see us in action, we should ask for their opinions about how whatever we just did could have been better. Don’t give feedback without asking for it first though. No one like the guy who’s always telling people what to do and how they could be better without putting up the mirror first.
Here are some scenarios and ways to ask for feedback so we can improve: When you lose a deal, find out the real reason why by debriefing with the team and potentially even calling the customer for their feedback. When you’re presentation ends with a thud and no one has any question or seems engaged, ask why. Develop a new cold call/voice mail approach and leave a message for your manager and ask them if they would have responded if it was real. Present a new concept to the team and ask someone to count how many times you say “um” during your presentation. Ask the person sitting in the next cube to listen for your “weak” or “bridge” words when you’re on the phone and point out which ones are distracting. Regardless of the scenario, open the door for feedback and welcome it when it comes in. Good luck and happy selling.