Not getting feedback at work? It’s your mom’s fault
Last week I had lunch with a client. When I returned from the lunch I saw a friend who told me I had something stuck in my teeth. I was embarrassed and wondered why my client hadn’t told me.
It’s quite possible he hadn’t noticed. In fact, knowing this guy and how much work I’ve done with his firm on being candid, it’s probable he hadn’t noticed. But we all know people who notice and say nothing. We could walk around all day with toilet paper on our shoe, lipstick on our teeth, or our fly down, and the people around us won’t tell us.
If you read my blog weekly, you already know that people have been trained not to tell you the truth.
But I think there is more preventing people from telling us the truth. Complete this sentence: “If you have nothing nice to say, _________________________________. Who told you that? Your mother!!!
I do think there’s something to this. We’re raised to believe that it isn’t nice to say something to another person that isn’t positive. And in the past, when we did speak up, it’s likely the other person got defensive. So it’s no wonder that we don’t readily give people bad news.
Here are five tips for getting feedback from the people around you:
- Establish a core team of people who will always tell you the truth. These can be friends, coworkers, clients, vendors, you boss, etc.
- Give people permission to be honest with you. “Let’s make a deal. I always want you to tell me the truth. If I have something stuck in my teeth, or I’m inappropriately dressed for a meeting, or I’m doing something that damages my reputation, I want you to tell me.”
- Make it easy to tell you the truth. “I promise no matter what you tell me and how hard it is to hear, I will say thank you. I won’t get defensive. And if I do, I’ll apologize and try to do better next time.”
- Offer to do the same for them. “And if you want me to do the same thing for you, I’m happy to do it.”
- Periodically check in with people and ask for feedback. “A few months ago I asked you to tell me anything I said, did, or wore that got in the way of my success. Is there anything you’ve seen that you want to tell me?”
Every time you ask for feedback and take it graciously, you train the person to give you more feedback. On the contrary, every time you get defensive, you make it hard for people to give you feedback, making it likely they won’t do it again.
If you don’t want to walk around looking silly all day, make it safe to tell you the truth.