“Cynthia, if you don’t change your attitude, no one will want to work with you.”
That was #feedback I received early in my career, over 2 decades ago now, from my manager, Paul.
He wasn’t wrong.
For a variety of reasons including a load of emotional baggage I was carrying around and a chip on my shoulder, I came at the world with an attitude of extreme cynicism.
Looking back, I wouldn’t have wanted to work with me.
I don’t recall how I reacted to Paul’s feedback—I expect I got defensive. But I remember it so vividly I can picture where we were sitting.
I listened. I truly heard him and knew he wanted the best for me. I believed him. And I started the work to change.
What made me receptive to truly receiving this feedback?
1️⃣ He took the time to build a personal and trusting relationship with me in the months prior to our conversation.
2️⃣ He gave me the respect of being direct.
3️⃣ He gave it kindly and with compassion, which came across in his tone and non-verbals.
4️⃣ He made it clear that his intent was to help me, not to tear me down.
If any one of those aspects hadn’t been true, I likely wouldn’t have received the feedback the same way.
This is front of mind due to a conversation I recently had with a leader. She has a high performer who has some derailing behaviors. She was focused on how to give feedback in a soft way that the employee wouldn’t react negatively to. They do have a trusting relationship. But the way she wanted to give the feedback just obfuscated the point. My guidance was that she give the employee the respect of being direct, but do it with kindness and make clear the intent is to support leadership growth.
Too often we hesitate to provide direct feedback. We couch it in soft language because we don’t want to upset the other person or give them a reason to leave. And then we don’t understand why our feedback didn’t seem to land.
To be clear, YOU HAVE TO START WITH BUILDING TRUSTING RELATIONSHIPS. And that takes time and effort.
𝗪𝗵𝗲𝗻 𝘆𝗼𝘂’𝘃𝗲 𝗱𝗼𝗻𝗲 𝘁𝗵𝗮𝘁, 𝘆𝗼𝘂’𝘃𝗲 𝗲𝗮𝗿𝗻𝗲𝗱 𝘁𝗵𝗲 𝗵𝗼𝗻𝗼𝗿 𝘁𝗼 𝗯𝗲 𝗱𝗶𝗿𝗲𝗰𝘁 𝗶𝗻 𝘆𝗼𝘂𝗿 𝗳𝗲𝗲𝗱𝗯𝗮𝗰𝗸.
1️⃣ Build trust over time.
2️⃣ Give them the respect of being direct.
3️⃣ Express kindness and compassion in your tone and non-verbals.
4️⃣ Make clear the intent is to help them succeed, not tear them down.
As for me, little by little, over years and lots of deep self-work, I changed how I engage with the world. I became someone that people seek out to work with rather than avoid. I credit Paul for lighting that spark.