Brutal Truth

One of the most underutilized tools in business is feedback.  Few know how to give it.  Fewer still actually use it. 

Doc Rivers, the LA Clippers coach said, “average players want to be left alone, good players want feedback and great players want to be told the truth.”

A grand paradox is only a small segment of any group can be truly “great.”  It’s a matter of statistics.  Remember the good old bell-shaped curve.  Ever look at an IQ distribution within the population.  The fact is, “great” is, and will always be, relative to a standard set by exceptional performance.  Athletics, academics, wealth.  The criteria does not matter; top 1%, 5% or 10%.  Once a new level of “exceptional” is established by a few, the bar is raised and great becomes more “elusive.” 

So, the brutal truth is very few individuals, or organizations for that matter, will ever reach “greatness.”  Frustratingly, nearly all business authors & consultants prance around preaching their prescription to achieve exceptionalism. 

Do this or do that they write.  Yet, how often are these pithy platitudes implemented and executed.  In my humble experience, rarely.  Why, because those that do, are great – the bar setters, the statistical anomalies.  Those that achieve greatness are creating their own truth by thinking and acting for themselves.

Here’s the good news.  Good performers (aka, the mass of people getting up every day, working hard, dedicating themselves to their families, jobs and communities) can improve.  They can incrementally build upon their skills and innate talents.  Individually and collectively, good people, with good skills can become better.  The question is are these individuals willing to listen, internalize and ACT on feedback?

Change is difficult for most.

One’s self perception is often much higher
than other’s perspectives.

People tend to project their problems on
others vs. owning their personal shortfalls.

As leaders, we are placed in a peculiar position.  On one hand, we are imperfect human beings seeking to help shape and influence others.  We need feedback to help incrementally build our own skills and talents while also doing the same for those we have the privilege to lead.

Second, we must commit ourselves to acting on feedback provided to demonstrate our personal commitment to becoming the best we can possibly be.  The standard should be incremental improvement, not becoming “great.”  By seeking feedback and offering constructive yet candid feedback to others, a virtuous loop of incremental improvement can be created.

How to get started?  Learn how to ask for feedback.  Don’t give it.  Simply ask.  Then work to make your own improvements.  In time, those you lead will see your example. 

Your “followers” will appreciate your
commitment to personal improvement. 

Your self-perception will become better
aligned with how others see you. 

You will begin taking ownership of your
personal shortfalls and your “problems” will be reduced. 

Set your standard for ongoing and never-ending improvement. 

Here’s the brutal truth.  Goodness expanded by many is more powerful than greatness in a few.