What’s the single most important thing you can do to:
- Increase your influence at work?
- Convince senior executives you are a top performer?
- Win that promotion?
- Uncover hidden career blockers?
The answer to all of these is the same – find out what you could be doing better!
Remember Ed Koch’s catchphrase when he was Mayor of New York City: “How’m I doing?” He said it so often that it probably became a joke to many of us. But I guarantee you he got lots of valuable input from people!
What do you think those closest to you, those you work with every day, the senior executives who can be so important to your future career opportunities, your clients, etc. would say if you asked them “How am I doing?” And would the answer be the same if someone else asked them how you are doing? And do you just THINK you know the answer, or do you REALLY know what they would say?
The Only Objection You Can’t Overcome
The only objection you can never overcome is the one that you don’t know about.
- You never hear about a new position until after it’s been filled, because the person making the decision wasn’t aware of some of the great results you had achieved.
- You are passed over for a promotion because the decision-maker assumed you didn’t have certain critical skills.
- You aren’t given exciting new projects because your boss had no idea you were interested in getting involved in that area.
- You are turned down for interesting opportunities because of negative vibes you weren’t aware you sent out.
Have you ever met someone at a networking event, and within a few minutes of conversation concluded that you would have to be very careful about who you would introduce them to, for fear they would ‘burn’ your own connections? Have you ever read a posting to a networking group that revealed attitudes that made you cringe? And have you thought, “I’m glad I’m not like that!”
Overcoming Our Blind Sides
We all have our blind sides. The only way to overcome those is to seek out critical feedback, painful though it might be. And “critical” feedback is the most useful kind!
If you ask “How am I doing?” and the answer is “Great,” you may feel good, but it doesn’t give you insight into areas where you might improve. And often you may get a “Fine” that doesn’t really mean you’re doing fine. After all, friends are sensitive to your feelings.
Co-workers are reluctant to be too critical, because they don’t want to impair your working relationship. Subordinates are afraid you might take it out on them in other ways. Networking contacts don’t want to get into an awkward discussion. Etc.
This suggests that if you want true, substantive feedback, you need to do a little work yourself to get it. You need to show that you really want the unvarnished truth, and that you won’t get angry about it. You need to probe a bit yourself. And instead of asking questions that make it easy to give a non-committal positive response, ask those that invite serious input, like: “What’s one thing I could do better?”
Next week, I’ll talk about how to take this deeper. In the meanwhile, I challenge you to brainstorm a list of people from whom you could get true, substantive feedback.