Feedback is a Gift

A good friend tells you when you have spinach in your teeth. This deepens your friendship and trust because you know she has your back. Great coaches, parents, teachers, and mentors all provide us clear and direct feedback so we can improve in our careers and in our lives.

Why, then, is direct feedback so awkward in the business world? When you politely nod your head in agreement while thinking that your colleague must be smoking crack, you are not helping anyone. In fact, holding back your insight is an injustice to your organization and yourself.

What are you so afraid of? Giving the gift of feedback can help your team uncover blind spots, gain new perspective, and avoid unforeseen pitfalls. Personally, I’d rather someone tell me my shoe is untied than trip down a crowded staircase.

Ask yourself… wouldn’t you rather hear the real deal instead of a candy-coated reply? Wouldn’t it help you improve and drive better performance if you received regular straight-between-the-eyes feedback instead of those around you pulling their punches?

Jon Citrin, CEO of The Citrin Group, insists that one person play the role of “the blocker” in every meeting. That person’s job is to vehemently disagree with everything Jon says. The blocker must challenge each statement, object to unilateral decisions, and generally shake things up. As a result, others in the room become empowered to do the same. With each meeting, team members become more and more comfortable sharing direct feedback and expressing their true beliefs.

You won’t reach your full potential if you surround yourself with yes-men and yes-woman. Instead, you’ll get there by way of trusted advisors who tell you how things really are. Creativity and imagination soar when trust and feedback are abundant.

To craft an organization that can win in today’s harsh business climate, make sure friendly fire is encouraged. Being direct doesn’t mean heaping personal attacks or mean-spirited insults on unsuspecting colleagues. Instead, building a culture that celebrates direct feedback and encourages team members to wrestle ideas to the ground can be the difference-maker in your success.

An African proverb declares, “When friends argue, truth happens.” Have the courage to tell it like it is. Stop smiling passively and then bitching to others at the coffee machine. Make it your responsibility to give continuous and direct feedback. You’ll be giving a gift to those around you. And like most gifts, you’ll get ten times the rewards in return.

Oh… forgot to tell you…. you missed a button on your shirt.