Courageous Communications and Feedback
“Feedback is the Breakfast of Champions.” – Ken Blanchard
“Feedback is the Breakfast of Champions…as long as you’re willing to eat it.” – Sean Ryan
Over the last few weeks, we’ve shared a series of posts discussing “courageous communications.” One topic we’ve not touched on directly: the cost of NOT holding the tough conversation, especially when it involves not providing people – your direct reports, peers or even bosses – with the kind of tough feedback that really does “feed” champions.
By “cost” I don’t mean the financial cost. That may not even be calculable, but I’ll bet the mortgage that it is massive. The real question is, what’s the human cost of not providing people the feedback they need to grow? The short answer: it’s staggering.
Feedback doesn’t Feed if It’s Not on the Menu
Let me share one story – of hundreds — that emerged from our work.
We were working with the senior leadership group in a unit of a multi-national firm. The group included one leader, let’s call him Frank, who had been identified by his manager, the VP in charge of the Division, as having the potential to be promoted. Several of the manager’s peers had concerns about Frank’s potential but were generally not close enough to the situation to have a definitive point-of-view.
Over the course of our discussion with the leadership group that day, I began to understand why people were hesitant about Frank’s potential. It was clear that Frank was a good person – he had a good value set, he truly cared about the organization and his team and he was technically competent. But, it was also clear, from both what he said and what others in the room said, that he had difficulty with follow-up/follow-through and creating accountability with both his team and others he worked with.
To his credit, at the end of our session, Frank very pointedly asked me for my feedback about him. I said I had some thoughts and offered to discuss it with him in private. He insisted, though, on hearing it in front of the group. While I thought that was risky – maybe more for me than Frank – I felt compelled to share my observations.
So, I told him: From our conversation today, your colleagues believe you don’t hold your team members accountable. And, you seem to do a fine job of identifying issues, but you don’t follow through to make sure they get corrected.
Fortunately, Frank took the feedback well and agreed with the assessment. He was willing to eat the tough feedback.
But, here’s the punchline. After our session, we had the opportunity to tour the unit’s operations. Three times in that one-hour tour, Frank pulled me aside to thank me for the direct, honest feedback I provided him. He said, “No one – including my boss – has ever provided me with that kind of feedback.”
To emphasize the point: His manager, who wanted him to succeed and was actively campaigning for Frank to be promoted, had never given him the very feedback he needed to succeed.
Frank was willing to eat the breakfast of champions, but no one who worked with him and could truly help him, was willing to feed him what he needed to grow to his fullest potential.
What’s the Cost of Not Providing the Feedback People Need?
So, what’s the cost?
To Frank — The sad result was that it likely had prevented him from being promoted for several years – all because his boss had avoided having the courageous conversation. The boss was withholding valuable information from him – information that might have cost him an opportunity to advance in the company.
To Frank’s team – What growth opportunities had they missed out on because of Frank not holding the tough conversations with them and holding them accountable for being their best?
To Frank’s business unit – How much could performance have improved if Frank had been more effective with Follow-up/Follow-through and holding people accountable?
To the larger organization – Like many, Frank’s company had a need for a steady pipeline of talent to fuel its growth and continuing success. What was the cost of Frank not growing to the extent of his capability and potential to enable him to move up in the organization?
And, again, this is just one of hundreds of similar situations we’ve seen where people aren’t being fed the feedback they need in spite of being willing eat it. What’s the cumulative cost of that to them, their organizations and the people around them?
Questions to Consider
As Ken Blanchard said, “Feedback is the Breakfast of Champions.” My questions to you:
- Are you willing to feed people the tough feedback they need to be their best?
- Are you willing to “eat the breakfast” that others are trying to feed you?
- Who on your team, or peer or manager, needs the feedback you could provide them?
- What’s holding you back from providing the feedback they need?
Please feel free to leave your thoughts below. I’ll look forward to continuing the dialogue.