Getting honest feedback is crucial

FeedbackOn the plane, I was reading an article in Motto by Jim Deupree of DBM’s International Center for Executive Options (ICEO).

I made a note to link to the article once I got back to an internet connection, but guess what? Motto doesn’t publish their articles online. Or, I can’t find them. One of the two.

Hmm. Anyway.

Let me do my best to quote and summarize.

Jim’s piece, “Building a Personal Brand,” focused on the activities in which you could engage to help you along your career path while improving your personal brand.

But it was the subhead that really caught my Kumquat-obsessed attention, “Getting honest feedback is not only useful, it’s crucial.”

His tips?

  • Feedback must come from people who see you in action
  • It is very hard to get people to tell the truth even when asked
  • Feedback must happen on a regular basis–not just a one-time reading

Yep, yep, yep. Fully agree.

But here’s the part that floored me:

[Third-party assessors who will gather this feedback] can be a great value–costs are typically $3000 to $5000 for summarized feedback that compares how you rate yourself with how others rate you.


I like the idea, but I don’t have that kind of flow laying around every time I want some critical feedback from my peers.

Still, I find it quite interesting to see that facilitating that kind of feedback is valued in the thousands of dollars. And that getting that feedback is worthwhile.

I’d recommend picking up a copy of Motto to read the entire article, if it’s available near you. I think Jim makes some great points. I just think there needs to be a more efficient, and less costly, way of getting to that valuable feedback.

About Rick Turoczy

More than mildly obsessed with the Portland startup community. Founder and editor at Silicon Florist. Cofounder and general manager at PIE. Follow me on Twitter: @turoczy
This entry was posted in Branding, Career, Feedback, Kumquat. Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to Getting honest feedback is crucial

  1. Rick –

    I’m glad that you enjoyed the article as well. I’m a personal friend of Jim’s and he has a number of valuable insights across a wide range of leadership and career topics.

    Although I’ve never had a formal personal board, I have benefited greatly from this kind of candid personal feedback. I worked for over 20 years at a Fortune 10 company that had a well-publicized commitment to leadership development. While the company had a formalized hard-coded M2S (manager to subordinate) Annual Review process with very pointed feedback, the most valuable feedback I ever received was from my periodic 360 reviews. I would counter that a well executed 360 process is a fourth alternative to the 3 alternatives presented in the article, that’s just as cheap as the personal board, and probably almost as effective as the 3rd party assessor.

    The process I am familiar with was an on-demand, enterprise e360 application which allowed you to select up to 15 respondents from different tranches (peers, reports, bosses and external customers). Sure, ours had bells and whistles, but you could cobble up the same functionality using or any of multiple free or low-cost online survey tools. The survey should be a relatively short list of targeted attributes with numerical ratings and several open ended questions with lot’s of white space (best attributes, biggest development opportunities, do more of , do less of etc.).

    I have done a 360 in this manner every few years since about 1995 and the learnings were some of the most useful and actionable feedbacks I’ve ever received. Critical success factors for this process to work:
    * You need to make sure all respondents know up front that this is very important to you and you want them to be honest and candid.
    * You will have to work the crowd hard to get all the responses complete by your deadline, but you really want to get 100% participation if at all possible. Explain to them that since it’s anonymous, you will have to badger all 15 of them endlessly until the final respondent fills theirs out.
    * By it’s nature, it’s an anonymous process, and you need to make sure respondents disguise any of their obvious electronic character traits to maintain that anonymity. (my normal email style is e.e.cummings all lower case, but i try to use normal sentence case when replying to a 360).
    * Fight the normal human tendency to reverse engineer the answers and try to find out “who said that about me?”. Take the feedback as an aggregate body of work and don’t get too hung up on any outlier comments. Everyone’s entitled to an opinion, and occasionally a good nugget of constructive feedback can get embellished into a comment that can be almost hurtful due to the superhuman powers of temporary anonymity. BY ALL MEANS do not administer any type of retribution or the entire process gets undermined.
    * IMPORTANT (and not everyone does this): You need to construct a formal thank you and response / action plan document and distribute that to all of your assessors after you’ve had time to digest and internalize the feedback. I advocate pulling them together if possible and reviewing it in a group session; it shows personal commitment and you are likely to get even additional color commentary in the discussion. ASK FOR THEIR HELP in working on the development actions and give them a “free pass” to call you out if they see you slipping back into your old ways.
    * Keep your past 360’s and action plans in a file and go back to them periodically to reflect on your progress. Can an old dog really learn new tricks?

    As always, your mileage may vary, but I have found this to be an invaluable addition of inputs to my personal development process over the years.

    p.s. Regarding the online Motto articles, I think Kevin and Anita are still working very hard to generate positive cash flow from their great magazine and thus are not giving away the content yet. At $24 for two years, you really can’t go wrong. It’s an easy read which offers some insightful comments and ideas around the general maxim of “Capitalism With a Soul”.

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