My first job was at a Top 5 National home builder in the country which meant there was a lot of process and procedure. Each quarter, we got reviews based on a rating scale of 1-5 in each key result area accompanied by comments. In the 3 years I worked there, I had 3 bosses and handful of reviews from each boss. I can tell you that none of the feedback I ever got at that stage of life really made a difference because as a fresh out of college 20-something, my judgements and opinions of these bosses shielded me from most of what they had to say. Said another way, I was full of naïve ego. Aren’t the 20’s awesome? I was only influenced by my small group of peers at work at that time. We were all cut from the same cloth, hired at the same time, and in the same stage of life. I took their cues and we figured it out together. When they were up, I was up. When they were down, I was down. We shared every work experience and took them all on as a collective group. Upper management couldn’t hold a candle to the tight knit sphere of influence we all had on each other. In fact, when the first one of us quit, the rest of us followed suit very quickly.
Ten years and what seemed like a lifetime later, I was going through one of my furious organizing spurts at home and I came across one of my reviews from my first job. I probably had 5-10 of them while I was there, but I only kept one. Oh, this will be interesting, let’s read what an awesome employee I was in 2005.
“…Lauren needs to work on developing her visibility and enthusiasm amongst her peers (project her expertise publicly!) in a positive manner without sounding negative.
…Lauren has the ability to rise up as a leader within the sales team but in order to do this, she needs to positively speak out in group settings not only amongst her peers with but managers as well.
…she could be extremely influential to the entire sales team if she were to watch her tone in casual conversations and speak up more at meetings.
…Lauren is a straightforward individual who tells it like it is and although those close to her understand and accept that about her, I think her style can sometimes create the mis-perception that she has a negative attitude rather than the “can-do” attitude she possesses in reality.
…I can’t overemphasize the importance of understanding who one’s audience is when communicating.”
Okay universe. Very funny. I just happened upon this during a time in my career when I was transitioning from manager to leader, and it immediately sent me into self-reflection. One of the things I’m actually the proudest of today is how open I am to feedback. Seeing this review, reminded me that was not always the case. I remember summarizing this moment in time as a “use your power and influence for good, not evil” sort of reference. I was absolutely not open for that feedback then. I thought my influence was just fine thankyouverymuch. The other thing this so appropriately reminded me of, was that this was by far my most influential boss. That review came from someone who clearly cared, believed in me, and was not afraid to point out what she thought was great and what she knew was and would hold me back. That was exactly what I needed to bring to the table as a boss.
Clear feedback from someone with care and positive intent is a generous gift. As a leader, it’s one of the most impactful things you can do. It’s also for the other person, and not for you. Don’t expect to get a high five. Just know you led the horse to water, and when it’s thirsty, it’ll drink, even if it’s ten years later.