Recently I ran across a situation that reminded me of leaders needing to delegate responsibility while remaining engaged with what the team is doing. At one of my former employers we had a particularly thorny issue which required multiple groups to work together to address. It was important that I delegate resolution of the issue to the team, but it was also important that the team had a glimpse into some of my thinking on the issue. When I delegated the issue to one of my managers for resolution, I also articulated some guiding principles that the team needed to keep in mind while resolving the issue. What this allowed me to do was not only provide some considerations for the team to noodle over while coming up with a resolution to the issue but also empower the team to make the decision as to what to do about the issue.
Recently I had an interesting interaction on LinkedIn. A young man from a financial services company asked to connect with me, which I accepted. He immediately sent me a message asking to meet for coffee to conduct a personal financial review, and told me his other customers were VERY (yes he “e-yelled” VERY) satisfied with the work he did. Aside from the fact that I’m satisfied with my existing financial advisor, I have a bit of a problem with someone on LinkedIn pitching me right after connecting. I replied with a simple “No Thanks.”
A few days later he responded back thanking me and asking why I declined. I had to decide whether to just ignore his question or respond. I looked at his profile and decided that he really wanted to know and that I could help him with his connect à pitch technique. I told him that I thought his trying to sell me right after connecting was disingenuous; that he didn’t take any time to learn about me and didn’t try to develop any rapport points. He then responded with “When did I try to sell you?” I told him that asking to do a personal financial review and telling me his other customers were VERY satisfied felt like he was pitching me. He then responded with “When did I ask to review your personal finances?” At this point I was curious as to where this was going, so I did a copy/paste from his original message that asked to do a personal financial review. This is where it got really interesting. He responded with the following:
“I never asked you to share your personal financial information online. It was a simple yes or no question. Most nice people on LinkedIn are happy to meet up with me for a chat over coffee. At this point I’ll pass on my offer to meet with you. Best of luck to you in the future.”
I read his message, partly amused, partly shocked. I thought it interesting how he inserted the word “online” in his response (which was never mentioned before), how it was a simple yes or no question (which I answered with a simple no), how nice people are happy to meet up with him (I guess I’m on his naughty list now), and how he’ll pass on his offer to meet up (kind of felt like “You can’t break up with me, I’m breaking up with you first”). He did put a “Best of luck to you in the future” tag on the end to pretend to be professional, but it wasn’t enough to prevent me from blocking him.
I mused over this interaction and decided to call one of my expert sales authors, Nikki Rausch, to get her take on what happened. I told her the story and after saying, “Thanks for making my day,” she confirmed that this was a textbook example of a disingenuous sales interaction. While I was pleased that I didn’t totally misread things, the consultant in me hoped the fellow would have used the feedback as a teachable moment. He asked for feedback, didn’t like it, then told me I wasn’t nice. He did give me one gift; great content for an article 😊.
My one takeaway for you is this: if you’re going to ask for feedback, be prepared to get feedback that you may not agree with. That doesn’t mean you have to act on the feedback. I made it clear to the fellow that my job was to tell him what I thought, his was to decide what to do with it. He could have just said “Thank you, Lonnie,” and went on his way. He took the additional step to not only ignore the feedback but try to prove me wrong and subsequently insult me. He never considered the position he was putting me in. I could have simply ignored his request for feedback, but I thought he really wanted to know why I didn’t want to meet up. Turns out he didn’t give a rat’s tail about what I thought. It was all about him. You can add the words “lack of grace and maturity” to disingenuous when I think of this person. I may forget his name, but I will always remember the company he works for. That company will never get my business.
Asking for feedback doesn’t mean you have to act on it. By all means, if you don’t understand feedback, ask clarifying questions to help you decide what to do with it. But don’t insult the person you asked; they don’t deserve it.
Over the years I have been on both ends of constructive (and not so constructive) criticism. Quite frankly, I still struggle with doing this flawlessly every time, but I've put together some guiding principles that I try to work under and thought might be helpful to you:
When I wrote my first book in 2004 my publicist told me, "you've got to write articles to get your message out and sell books!" Being a good soldier I saluted and contemplated how I was going to get it done. My publicist turned me on to a ghost writer who wrote an article under my guidance. After paying way too much for the article and seeing the finished product, I vowed never again to have someone else write for me. I decided that if I had crappy articles it was going to be because I was the one who wrote them, not because I paid someone to write crappy articles for me.
When I wrote my first article, I decided on the topic and just started writing. It was a disaster. The content was disjointed, lacked focus, and made no sense. It also took me hours and hours to produce a piece of garbage. There had to be a better way. Fortunately I found it after a lot of trial and error.
If you're like many people, the thought of speaking in front of a group of people is like bamboo under your nails. Truth be told, the audience wants to see you succeed and doesn't want to see a crash-and-burn on the stage. The audience is rooting for you.
Next time you have to take to the podium, keep the following in mind:
As a child and young adult I was very independent. Regardless of the situation, if I was doing something I was determined to do it myself and not ask for anyone's help. In my eyes asking for someone's help was akin to admitting defeat or somehow showing others that I was weak or incompetent. My attitude was "If someone else can do it, I can do it". How Naive.
What we learned was more than what we had anticipated; not necessarily about their purchases, but about how they worked and the importance of urgency versus importance in their jobs.
Recently I was asked by a journalist how I practiced public speaking. At this point in my life, getting up in front of an audience is pretty much second nature. However, it wasn't always so. I had to work hard at the skill and had to fail A LOT before I found my schtick and was able to get pretty OK at it.
Here are the highlights from the interview along with six take-aways to help you be a better public speaker.
Within a few months of my open door policy, I saw my own productivity drop and my frustration level rise because I kept getting interrupted by people taking me up on my open-door policy. My open-door policy soon turned into a series of random interruptions that caused me to not get my stuff done. I came to recognize that I needed to be accessible to people but that I could control the accessibility through scheduled time. Open-door means be accessible, not come in whenever you want.
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