When Ed Koch was Mayor of New York he was famous for asking, “How am I doing?” He’d ask CEOs, bus drivers and everyone in between. When it came to feedback he was almost indiscriminate in terms of who he’d ask.
Which leads me to this week’s confession. I’m Bob Rosner, and I’m a feedback junkie. Like Mayor Koch, I love to hear how I’m doing. And not just the good stuff either, because if I’m screwing up, and I screw up a lot, I’d rather hear about it sooner than later.
But when I think of feedback I don’t only think of Mayor Koch, I also think of Melissa. She was a top executive of a publishing company in Seattle. I served as her coach for the better part of a year. After a series of conversations, I felt that Melissa had no idea of her strengths. So I encouraged her to ask for feedback from a people she trusted—former coworkers, friends and family. To make the process totally safe for her, she alone would pick the people to ask for feedback.
Melissa resisted making the feedback calls for months. Something always came up that prevented her from doing it. Finally she got the courage to contact a former coworker. She said that the coworker gushed about how Melissa was always there for her. Melissa was so moved that she started to cry. Then Melissa called her brother who surprised her by saying that she was his hero. He recounted a series of stories describing how much she had helped him through the years, most of which she had forgotten. Melissa said that her only regret was that she waited so long to ask people to take a Melissa moment.
I’m sure that at least a few of you who are reading this are in the Melissa-before-she-made-her-request-for-feedback camp. Feedback conjured up a picture of castor oil, something that was good for you but that undoubtedly would trigger your gag response or the gag response of those closest to you.
That’s why I decided to conduct an experiment to see if I can encourage you to join the Feedback Junkies Club. I’m going to ask everyone who reads this column to email me your feedback about this column, past blogs or Working Wounded (firstname.lastname@example.org). I’m also going to write to a group of people who I’ve worked with or known through the years and ask them to answer a few simple questions:
1. What do you like best about me?
2. If you had a magic wand, what would you like to change?
3. Do you have a favorite story that sums up the essence of who I am?
4. Anything else?
I’ll be back next time with the good, the bad and the ugly from the responses. But hopefully this won’t just be about me and will encourage you to ask similar questions to the people who matter in your life.
About the Author: Bob Rosneris a best-selling author and award-winning journalist. For free job and work advice, check out the award-winning workplace911.com. If you have a question for Bob, contact him via email@example.com.
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