Have you ever told someone something you knew she needed to hear but you weren’t sure she was going to like? When I was starting out as a coach, the answer for me was “no.” I had a natural affinity for the question-asking and the empowering pieces of coaching, but I really struggled with delivering feedback I knew would be difficult for my clients to hear.
Fast forward a number of years later, especially after one-month of The Honesty Experiment, and I’ve taken giant leaps–although I’m not quite a Jedi Master–toward mastering how to deliver critical feedback.
Between a number of leadership trainings and getting my Moxie Mastery women ready for their final performance, over the last month I’ve been steeped in developing high performance in business and community leaders. There have been a lot of behaviors to laud. And there have been a lot of lingering not so productive habits to break. For one emerging leader, after a lot of coaching, I wasn’t seeing the growth she and I were looking for. There were no more opportunity-centered, discovery questions to ask. No more frames to open up to enable her to see anew. In order for growth to happen, she needed to hear some specific, direct feedback. And apply it!
Afterwards, she cried. While my husband jokes that I haven’t done my job if someone in one of my groups hasn’t had a tear-producing ‘aha’ moment, these were definitely not tears of recognition. These were tears of disappointment. And until a few days ago, I also thought they were tears of shame. Fortunately, for her and me, I had gotten this one wrong.
This week I received an email from said person thanking me. She wrote, “I wasn’t playing a big enough game, and as a result I was going through the motions but I wasn’t really playing to my edge. You called out my mediocrity and in the process showed me that I don’t want to just get the job done. I want to be exceptional when I speak. You’re the first person who has ever really challenged me, but I see now that you did that because you know what I’m capable of. Thank you for, as you say, helping me to ‘shatter my glass ceiling.’”
Whether or not you are engaged in talent development, there are likely people in your life whose success you want to support–and in pursuit of being their cheerleader–you reserve delivering critical feedback to. Mahatma Gandhi said, “Truth never damages a cause that is just.” I’m not suggesting you identify and communicate everything you see as an area for growth to your people. However, when you can unequivocally communicate from a place of equal parts empathy and desire for that which is best for them–and when you have their trust, respect, and permission–one of the greatest gifts you can give them is your honest feedback. As influencers, it is our ace in the hole.