I had the best car repair appointment the other day. The dreaded check engine light showed up on my dashboard and rather than put a piece of black tape over it and ignore the situation, I took my car to get checked. I drive a Mini Cooper S, which has what can be considered a high-performance engine. The repair guy said, “You need to drive this car harder.” Wait, what? “Get it on the highway and push it to 4,000 and 5,000 RPMs,” he told me. Hmm. I can do that. Turns out, I was driving my car too carefully. Minis might be, well, mini, but they like going fast.
So do I.
I hit the highway and proceeded to do as told. While I was out there a thought came to me. By going easy on my car I was actually hurting it. I was doing a disservice to its very engineering; preventing my car from operating at maximum performance. It didn’t require much of a leap to connect that revelation to how I challenge myself every day. Yep. How many of us are holding back? Playing it safe. Our human engineering is a lot tougher and more adventurous than we give it credit.
Without getting too philosophical or anything, what are you not going after? It’s time to hit the highway. Or at least that “S” curve up ahead. This is especially true if you are in a leadership position, because if you’re holding yourself back there is a good chance you’re holding others back, too.
And, loosen your grip. This isn’t about being reckless or even fearless. It’s only about trusting yourself. That’s all.
Back in my days as an advertising copywriter I would to tell a joke that went like this: How many copywriters does it take to change a lightbulb? Answer: None. I’m not changing anything. The joke usually came on the heels of someone saying how he or she liked an ad I wrote “…but could you change a few things.”
I often hear comments about how so-and-so is not very good at receiving feedback. No kidding. Nobody loves feedback. We might say we do. We might recognize the benefit of receiving feedback and even see it as critical to our professional and personal growth. But nobody likes getting it. Getting feedback means we didn’t do something right or we could have done it better or we’re not exactly perfect. No matter how enlightened we are we don’t like to hear that.
So what’s the best business coaching tip about the way to give feedback? We know the rules about giving feedback near the event, in private, and using specific examples that have been observed first hand. But those are tactics, and tactics aren’t enough. What makes feedback effective is everything that goes on before the feedback. We should be preparing for feedback scenarios the very minute we meet someone, well before any feedback conversations take place. What this means is showing someone you care. Listening. Being supportive. Demonstrating you want the best for them. Being available. Open. Empathetic. Inclusive. Asking for and respecting their opinion. If we do all of that from Day1…if we behave in ways that show someone else we have their back and want for them what they want…then when a moment for feedback presents itself we will have set the table.
It is about having a foundation of trust. Maybe even love. I know, not the word us hardened, competitive businesspeople want to hear. Feedback that comes from those places is not only helpful, it is nourishing. Let’s all start today. Even if it’s months before we say anything.
I keep hearing how nobody is loyal anymore. You know, “Those millennials just want to be given everything and they don’t want to work for it.” Not true. As a leadership coach, I have seen so much evidence to the contrary. Look around. Look in the mirror. People are working harder than ever and it’s not for individual fame and fortune. Loyalty is very much alive. The thing is, loyalty is a two-way street. What’s gone is blind loyalty. Nobody is going to stick around for 20 or 30 years on the promise that, in the end, they’ll be rewarded. That’s not loyalty, it’s foolishness. It can even be called laziness. Every one of us, whether we’re 22 or 92 is ready to be loyal. We just need a reason. When our work is meaningful, when we’re trusted to do our jobs without being watched over, and when we have opportunities to keep learning and growing…if all of that is in place…we will not only stay put, we will work extra hours, bring all of our energy and effort to bear, and do it again tomorrow. It’s when organizations and the people running them break our trust or trample a value or two that we will seek out somewhere else to be loyal. I think about this not only in terms of business, but in terms of life, as well. If I want someone to be loyal to me I need to always, always, be worthy of their loyalty.