Taped to my computer is the now famous quote from Brene Brown, based on the “Man in the Arena” speech given by Theodore Roosevelt in 1910, “If you’re not in the arena getting your butt kicked too, I’m not interested in your feedback.” It’s become my motto and a guideline for how I filter through what feels like never ending and sometimes harsh thoughts from people who don’t know me or my intentions and have never put themselves out there in any way, shape, or form.
I spent the first few years of my career confusing feedback with other people’s opinions. I altered my behavior based on what others were telling me to do. You could get whiplash from how quickly I changed my mind. Because I was young, I chalk much of it up to growing pains. Even still, that initial phase of taking everything everyone told me to heart left me inconsistent and unclear. In my attempts to build a brand I became, ironically, off message. What I learned was that context and expertise were critical for feedback to be helpful.
To build your brand, feedback is imperative. A well-qualified outside perspective is necessary to give you the good and the bad straight. To decipher all the noise coming at me, I first had to determine what qualified someone to give me feedback. I came up with a set of standards: I needed to know them personally, respect them, hold them in some esteem, and most important, they had to be on the other side of my journey. Meaning, did they build a business? Raise a healthy, happy family? Achieve similar financial goals? Successfully overcome similar challenges? If so, then bring on the feedback. Otherwise, I’m open and happy to consider their opinions, but I don’t feel the same pull to change or need for self-reflection.
You likely get feedback from everyone: co-workers, colleagues, your boss, clients, mother-in-laws, other parents in your community; it’s never ending. Create your set of standards to help find the nuggets of wisdom and opportunity for growth in the clutter that is other people’s ideas. Who do you trust, respect, and admire? Who appreciates your journey at a deeper level? Who is emotionally invested in your success?
Some of the best feedback I ever received was from a trusted colleague who became a dear friend. She wrote in an email “stop trying to be all things to all people, commit to your perspective, that’s why what works works, you have a strong point of view, own it.” Those words spoke right to my soul. I didn’t want to hear it because I knew I was all over the place, but I respect her, and I knew she was right. She has been a witness and advocate for my business for a long time. Her feedback gave me the confidence I needed to up my game and take a risk. That’s what feedback should do; it should help guide you down the right path.
When I work with coaching clients, I ask them to come up with 4 -5 friends, co-workers and colleagues whose opinions they respect and value. Then we send them a survey that allows for anonymous responses, asking for pointed feedback. Any positive feedback reinforces your alignment with your personal goals; the negative should highlight opportunities for growth and helps you get back on track.
You can do something similar in your life. Use a (free) service like Survey Monkey to create an online questionnaire, so the process remains anonymous. Next, ask thoughtful questions, such as:
How would you describe me to someone I never met?
What do you see as my greatest strengths?
Knowing my goals for the future, where could I focus more time and energy?
Tell me about a time I was not at my best?
Note that this kind of feedback is very different from a performance evaluation. Indeed, we need to honor the thoughts of those we serve, whether you work for a corporation and answer to a boss or board, or, like me, your clients. What I’m talking about here are broader terms that help you in and out of the office. With the right kind of feedback, you will be able to focus on what you do well, improve (or release) your challenges, and clearly define who you want to be and what you stand for in the world.
Let these questions inspire you to craft your feedback campaign. Next week, we’ll talk about what to do with the feedback once you receive it from qualified individuals and how to create a mission statement for your personal brand.
And your thoughts and comments below: