The Power of Feedback — Even When It Is Completely Unexpected

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Jan 11, 2016
This article is part of a series called Editor's Pick.

“I just had my annual review and during this meeting, it was indicated that my moodiness and ‘dictator-like’ management style are the reasons you decided to leave. 

I sincerely apologize that my management style caused you distress, and perhaps stripped you of an opportunity to advance here. I think you are a strong and talented marketer and hope that you have found more success in your new role.”

There are always firsts in life, and this note was a first for me.

Reaching out for feedback – and help

To add some background, the recipient of this email was someone that I have coached over the years. She had a boss that was everything mentioned here. Eventually, after many attempts to “align” with this manager, I told her that it was time to go and to start the process of finding a new opportunity.

Within a few interviews, she had a more senior position and lived happily ever after.

But here’s what surprised me: I have never witnessed a bad manager getting feedback and then reaching out to a former direct report and sincerely ask for help.

The manager ended the note to their former direct report with this: “It would really help me professionally to know how I can do better.  Any professional feedback you can offer would be extremely appreciated.” 

Reacting to a 360

As we discussed this note, I thought of how many managers would have taken this approach by going back to the seed of discontent and saying “help me!”

As I told this person, the manager may not have exhibited optimum behavior during your tenure, but she blew it out of the water with this approach. That showed me that there is a nugget inside, that if it can be nourished, can transform this manager into becoming a great manager in the future.

Not only that, but it was a learning situation for both of them. She is asking your help based on your perception of her. Now is your time to discuss things in a little more depth.

It’s business, not personal

Most of the time we loathe negative feedback.

It is something that goes against the grain when we are told that we did not meet expectations. It bruises our sometimes-fragile ego, especially if we are used to being told that we are the king.

In our lives, we act differently when it comes to negative behavior. As Michael Corleone said so eloquently in The Godfather, said “It’s not personal …  it’s strictly business.” But, we sometimes take it personally as opposed to listening and evaluating.

That could present itself as anger, denial, blame, or argumentative, just to name a few. There are a lot of factors that go into our response. It could depend on the manager, the company, and its culture.

However, feedback is part of our business as well, whether it be from a co-worker or a direct report. It could also come from our kids, partner or family member.

Our response determines how we grow from this. If we are in total denial, we will block it. If we are seeking feedback, we will welcome it.

Let’s look at it this way: Feedback is an incredible opportunity to show our capability for learning and growth. Asking “how am I doing?” and getting that information and using it constructively, after a thorough evaluation, is paramount

Keys to the kingdom

This information could provide the impetus to make the next step in your career or relationship. That is why we can’t just totally ignore the feedback, regardless of the source. If this manager takes the feedback and become more aware of the signals that she is sending, she becomes not only a better manager, but a better person.

I have always been a believer that our personal lives have a lot to do with our business lives. Bad personal lives carry over to our business lives.

But if we all went back to ask how are we doing and how we can do better, we would see a tremendous reduction in dysfunction — not only in the workplace, but in our personal lives as well.

This article is part of a series called Editor's Pick.
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