How to Get Incredibly Helpful Feedback from Just About Anyone!

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Feedback is very useful for telling us “where we are.” Without it, I couldn’t work with my clients. I wouldn’t know what the people around my client think about what he or she needs to change. Likewise, without feedback, we wouldn’t know if were getting better or worse. We all need feedback to see where we are, where we need to go, and to measure our progress along the way. And I have a foolproof method for securing it.

When I work with coaching clients, I always get confidential feedback from their coworkers at the beginning of the process. I enlist each person to help me out. I want them to assist, not sabotage, the change process. I do this by saying to them, “I’m going to be working with my client for the next year. I don’t get paid if she doesn’t get better. Better is not defined by me; it is not defined by her. It is defined by you and the other coworkers involved in the process.” I then present them with four requests. I ask them to commit to:

  1. Let go of the past.
  2. Tell the truth.
  3. Be supportive and helpful–not cynical or negative.
  4. Pick something to improve themselves, so everyone is focused on more “improving” than “judging.”

As you contemplate changing your behavior yourself, you will need to do this same thing with your colleagues. Pick about a dozen people with whom you’ve had professional contact–work friends, peers, colleagues–and ask them to agree to these four commitments. When they do, which they nearly always will, you are ready to begin soliciting feedback from them about yourself.

In my experience, there are a hundred wrong ways to ask for feedback and one right way. Most of us know the wrong ways. We ask people, “What do you think of me?” “How do you feel about me?” “What do you hate about me?” or “What do you like about me?” Think about your colleagues. How many of them are your friends? How many of them really want to express to you their “true” feelings about you, to you?

A better question (and in my opinion the only question that works) is, “How can I do better?” Variations based on circumstances are okay, such as “What can I do to be a better partner at home?” or “What can I do to be a better leader of the group?” You get the idea. Pure issue-free feedback that makes change possible has to a) solicit advice rather than criticism, b) be directed towards the future, and c) be couched in a way that suggests you are, in fact, going to try to do better.

Finally, when you get the answer, when someone gives you the gift of what you can do to be better, don’t respond with your opinion of their advice. It will just sound like denial, rationalization, and objection. Treat every piece of advice as a gift, a compliment, and simply say, “Thank you.” No one expects you to act on every piece of advice. Just act on advice that makes sense to you. The people around you will be thrilled!

Now I want to hear from you!

Do you solicit feedback? How do you go about it? What holds you back from asking for feedback? What holds you back from giving feedback? We all need honest, helpful, constructive feedback. It’s hard to find, so I’m counting on you to give me your ideas, reflections, and experiences with feedback. I look forward to hearing from you!

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3 Tips for Leaders Who Engage on Social Media

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Some relationships are permanent; examples can include our families, life partners, close friends, and professional colleagues. These are lifelong bonds we form with some people.

Other relationships are transient. Transient relationships with friends, acquaintances, coworkers and colleagues can be highly enriching or quickly forgotten and last for a few days or a few years, either way, they are temporary.

Today we have a new type of relationship – the virtual relationship. This type of relationships is quite new, relatively speaking. In virtual “relationships”, we form connections (note that they’re called “followers” or “friends” or, literally, “connections”) with electronic representations of people. We may see their photos and be able to read their words, but we don’t interact in the classic sense. For the most part, there is no body language, inflection, intonation, volume, pitch, nonverbal behavior, or gesticulation.

Social media does a lot of good in connecting people, empowering movements, and boosting worthy causes. But it presents challenges, too. We can see and experience language and reactions on social media that would never occur in person, such as trolls who attack others for no reason, gratuitous use of obscenity, polarizing opinions, name calling, and so forth. A flat medium permits that. Such behavior, if manifested in a face-to-face, public setting would be considered gross and coarse. People make political, sexual, and religious comments on social media that they would never utter in the actual presence of other people.

Consequently, as a leader, our third dimension of relationships—virtual—requires you to be very thoughtful when engaging for these three reasons:

  1. Nothing published on any social media platform, no matter how restrictive you are in setting your connection permissions, is ever private or actually restricted to that platform. There is a good chance that others will learn of your private views and no matter how wonderful they are, this can lead to trouble.
  2. There are attack dogs on social media platforms who are always on the prowl spoiling for a fight. Many of them are bullies with vast inferiority complexes (the hallmark of bullies) who are seeking to bring everyone down to their own levels of poor self-worth. Such fights can be enervating. You may want to cull your virtual connections for this reason.
  3. Social media platforms can turn into vast vanity publishing operations, allowing anyone to say almost anything. And what is said becomes indelible. We all leave a trail. It’s hard to erase things that have been posted in the past unless you delete your account entirely, which still isn’t foolproof. What you’ve published two years ago can return to haunt you next year.

Relationships, whether they are permanent, transient, or virtual, fuel your journey. Some are constant sources of power, some are present for certain intervals and provide guidance and help, and some should be avoided, ended, or minimized because they represent unwanted detours, excess weight, or distraction. With those distinctions in mind, it’s important to focus on relationships that help you sustain your journey, whether they be permanent or temporary or virtual.

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You’re a Leader – What Should You Tweet?

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Social media has given us an incredible tool with which to reach millions and millions of people across the globe. With 7.5 billion people and counting and almost 2 billion on Facebook alone, as a leader, it is more important than ever to be thoughtful about what you post, tweet, and share.

So, how do you know what to “tweet”?

In the video interview that accompanies this blog, Todd Lombardo, digital marketer at Hastings Digital, recommends contemplating two questions when deciding what to share. These two questions are:

  1. What do you have to say? And,
  2. Do you offer value to the audience?

In my case, the first question, “What do I have to say?” has a simple answer. Everything I share on YouTube, LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter is focused on my mission: helping successful leaders achieve positive lasting change in behavior, for themselves, their people, and their teams. I am the world’s expert on this one distinct thing. In fact, if you do a Google search for “helping successful leaders” (make sure you do this in quotes!), 450 of the first 500 hits are about me. I am not an expert on anything else, nor do I try to be. I have a very clear mission – Peter Drucker taught me the importance of this. He said, “Your mission should fit on a T-shirt.” This is so that it’s clear and easy to remember.

To the second question, “Does what I am sharing offer value to the audience?” Always, before sharing on social media I ask myself, “Will this help successful leaders achieve positive lasting change in behavior?” Does this content reinforce my positive mission? If the answer is yes, I share it; if it’s no, I edit, rewrite, or scrap the piece all together.

While my mission hasn’t changed in decades, where I find my audience has. In the past, I did three things: I’m an executive coach, a speaker or teacher, and an author.

Executive coaching has a very deep impact, however, I can reach only a tiny number of people. Realistically I can coach 10 -15 people at one time. With speaking and giving talks, I can reach far more people. It is of course limited to the size of the room. It is a different level of depth than coaching. It’s not as deep, and it is broader in reach. Broader still is the third thing I do, which is write and edit books and articles. This was how I reached most of my audience for many years. You may not know this, but more than 2 million people have read my books! With the Digital Age, I have added a fourth dimension – digital content creator. With online content, I can reach millions of people. The impact is not as deep, and yet for many people it makes a positive impact.

What hasn’t changed across any of these dimensions is my mission. I continue to “help successful leaders achieve positive lasting change in behavior, for themselves, their people, and their teams” in all of these areas.

What are your thoughts about social media? How do you choose what to share, post, and tweet? I’d love to hear your views!

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How to Avoid One of the Most Devastating Causes of Career Lag!

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Our environment is full of triggers! Smells, sounds, sights barrage us constantly and can affect our actions in both our personal and professional lives. Some triggers are so powerful they can keep us from focusing on making meaningful change, and we unknowingly become a creation of the world around us rather than who we want to be.

In this digital age, the biggest trigger is the internet and advent of very sophisticated online media in all its varied forms. While the Internet and social media can be very positive, for instance sharing research and information across the globe instantly, they can also take us completely off course and hinder our progress towards our goals. In other words, mindless Googling and Snapchatting can be significant causes of career lag!

How many times have you been at a restaurant and seen a couple sitting together looking only at their smart phones? We may be communicating or learning from social media or the Internet, but we’re not engaging with the people who are sitting across from us – we are disconnected from our environment and the people in it. As a result that relationship does not grow. How about when a favorite TV series of yours is added to Netflix or Hulu? A weekend of binging on your show keeps you from venturing out to be with your friends and family. And, it can keep you from doing things that help your career and expand your horizons.

About 20 or so years ago, I wrote an article and I predicted that media addiction would surpass drug and alcohol addiction combined as a social problem. Unfortunately, this prediction has come true. The average kid who flunks out of school spends an average of 55 hours a week on non-academic media. That’s an addiction. A young man I know who drives me back and forth to Dartmouth where I teach flunked out of college. He has spent 25,000 hours of his life playing World of Warcraft instead of going to school! That is an addiction. He could have earned two PhDs in 25,000 hours!

What happens is that many of us fall into something called the monkey mind. The monkey mind is a Buddhist Concept, which is the idea that our mind is like a monkey, swinging from vine to vine through the jungle or from thought to thought in our heads. Looking at it this way, the Internet is like amphetamines for the monkey mind.

For example, have you ever gone online and said, “I’m going to look up something. It should take me five minutes.” Three hours later, you’re still online and you don’t remember what you started to search for in the first place? This is the monkey mind. You click from picture to picture, story to story, and your mind swings like the monkey from vine to vine without any thought about what you’re doing or where you’re going. You are just swinging. Hours are lost, precious time is gone, and you have now used up any momentum you had for furthering your own growth and development.

How can you avoid this career killer?

I use the daily question process myself and I recommend it to all of my clients and students. It’s very simple. You get an Excel spreadsheet. Down one column, you list the behaviors that are most important in your life – job search, school, family, friends, exercise are often in this column. You list these as a series of questions. For instance, how many pushups did I do today? Did I call my mother today? How many hours did I spend on non-academic social media today? Every question has to be answered with a yes, no, or number. If the question is answered as a ‘yes,’ put a ‘one’ on the Excel sheet, ‘no’ is ‘zero,’ or use a number to answer such questions as, how many pushups did I do? Do this every day for at least two weeks. It takes two minutes a day and it will help you get better at almost anything—it’s amazing how well this works.

Some people might be skeptical, thinking two minutes a day will help me get better at almost anything sounds too good to be true, but half the people doing this, within two weeks, quit. And they don’t quit because it doesn’t work; they quit because it does work. Because even though this is very easy advice to understand, it’s very challenging to do. You have to look in the mirror every day and it can be painful to do that. I challenge you to try this. Let me know how it’s going, and if you’d like a copy of my questions, send me an email at marshall@marshallgoldsmith.com. This is a great discipline that takes two minutes a day and will help better than almost anything!

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