We all have blind spots or flaws that get in the way of success. We may listen, but not hear. We may look, but not see. And we may speak, but not be understood.
At different times in our lives and careers, we all struggle to address what may be getting in the way of our ability to succeed.
Since change is hard and we are hard-headed, unless we ask for feedback we are unlikely to get it. Most of us express platitudes and provide praise rather than share what we really think. And, when it comes to receiving feedback, we shut down. We are not prepared to “handle the truth.”
The path to success requires us to know ourselves. As Aristotle said, “Knowing yourself is the beginning of all wisdom.”
The starting point for ourselves or our businesses is to ask others, “What do you think?” We likely need to add, “I really want your honest opinion.”
When I joined what was then Ogilvy & Mather PR in my early twenties, I remember asking a mentor what I could do better. I asked him to tell me anything that could be improved – from my clothes to my approach. I gave him permission to provide the unvarnished truth.
The feedback: Wear suits that fit, socks that go above your ankles, and take more time when responding to questions to show you have listened. I recognized in that moment that there were things I might be able to fix straight away, and others that would require a lifetime’s work.
That conversation had a deep and lasting impact, one that resonates to this day. Asking what others think and giving them permission to say what they really mean provides a powerful mirror for how we are seen by others. And, it provides insights we can use to remove roadblocks that get in the way of progress.
Asking what others think has been enormously valuable in my roles as a PR account executive, corporate communications professional, manager of teams, and as a CEO building and running CommunicationsMatch™. Not only does it help in our personal development, it is equally important to address what we may not see, hear, or understand in the work we do for clients and our companies.
By asking others for their opinion we take the risk that we may learn things we do not want to hear, be forced to see things from another perspective, and perhaps re-visit what we thought was good. This all takes work. We have to overcome ego, spend more time on writing or research, and work on ourselves. It’s not easy, but there’s a payoff. There’s an opportunity to fix what may be broken or refine what may be unpolished. We get to change outcomes and deliver better results.
When we ask “What do you think?” of others we will get a range of opinions. Some informed and some ill-informed. Some useful and some less so. Our task is to listen, learn, and apply the takeaways, knowing that some fixes may be easy, others may be hard, and some bugs in our, or our companies’, metaphorical code may be features.
When coaching or seeking to help others, sharing the value that can be gained from asking others what they think is a powerful way to help them on their journey.
When we ask for honest constructive feedback and are able to provide it, we are all more likely to succeed.
What do you think?
Simon Erskine Locke, founder & CEO of CommunicationsMatchTM
CommunicationsMatch offers communications & PR agency search tools and resources that help companies find, shortlist, and engage communications, digital marketing, and branding agencies, consultants and freelancers by industry and communications expertise, location and size. The site has 5,000 agency and professional profiles in areas including: crisis communications, public relations, internal communications, government affairs, investor relations, content marketing, social media, SEO, website development, photography and video. Prior to founding CommunicationsMatch, Locke held senior corporate communications roles at Prudential Financial, Morgan Stanley, and Deutsche Bank and founded communications consultancies.