A colleague recently invited me to give him some very direct feedback. He said, "I want you to be comfortable enough to tell me I have bad breath. In fact, if you care for me, you will."
Well, he didn't have bad breath… but there were some other things that I wanted to tell him.
Some things that were really hard for me to share, but if my colleague was going to go from good to great he needed to know. So with significant discomfort I shared with them what I had observed and what other people had said about him.
It was RAW! The conversation was short, maybe 20 minutes. It was the first time in my career that I REALLY gave uncensored, open feedback.
A wonderful thing happened. He thanked me... sincerely! Just so you know, what I told him shocked him -- really! I openly shared feedback about blind spots. As you might imagine there was a look of shock and hurt and a deeply felt, genuine question of "Really?" Is this how you feel, and others feel this way too?
The day after we had this meeting, we talked. There were some new questions and thoughts. Remaining was the question of, "Really, is this what you see?"
"Yes," I replied.
"Can you give me some evidence? A time when what you say actually happened?"
This was hard for me because, like many people, I don't want to have the tough conversation -- it is just too hard. I stuck with it and gave very specific examples.
He listened -- and then said that he understood and could see what I and others see. Suddenly I realized that he was receiving a gift, a gift that could change the trajectory of our relationship and his life.
I too received a gift. He modeled for me how to solicit and actually get the critical feedback that I need to change my own performance. And this is what I offer you: can you handle the truth? Do you have the benefit of straight-up feedback?