Do you want the good news or the bad news? The truth in the question is we don’t like to deliver bad news so we try to soften its impact. Especially if we anticipate the news is not going to be well received.
Not all feedback is created equal. I had a boss once who spoke frequently of the need to have “courageous conversations” with people. It takes courage to coach people towards improvement.
Let’s face it, we don’t like to receive feedback that is inconsistent with the way we see ourselves. And even if the feedback is accurate we tend to reject or deny it if it inconsistent with the way we see ourselves.
Marshall Goldsmith, the top executive coach in the world sums it up well, “Successful people feel great about their previous performance! The ‘good news’ is that these positive memories build our self-confidence and inspire us to try to succeed even more. The ‘bad news’ is our delusional self-image can make it very hard to hear negative feedback and admit that we need to change.”
How delusional are we?
We are delusional enough that we are highly (if not absolutely) more likely than not to over-rate our performances relative to our peers.
Goldsmith has asked over 50,000 people, who have attended his training programs, to rate themselves in terms of their performance relative to their professional peers.
The results are astounding.
- 80-85% ranked themselves in the top 20% of their peer group
- 70% rank themselves in the top 10%.
- The numbers rise to ridiculous levels when you ask professionals with higher perceived social status, such as physicians, pilots and investment bankers.
Feedback is the breakfast of champions.
No one denies confidence is essential to high-level performance. In fact studies have shown that “People with a slightly unrealistic confidence in their abilities outperform those whose self-assessments are more realistic.”
But self-confidence alone is not enough to sustain and raise performance over time. Confidence alone feeds a delusional self-image that keeps us from recognizing the need to change. It feeds a personal blind spot—that which you cannot see or refuse to see that hinders performance and relationships.
Performance plateaus in the absence of honest feedback and will eventually lead turn to decline when you rely on who you are or were versus who you have the potential and capability of becoming.
The Ticket to Raising Performance
Top performers embrace the idea that they have never peaked or arrived. Performance or contribution looks differently in the light of your own best effort. People who deliver sustained performance framed by on-going improvement focus on personal excellence.
Your goal should not be to win in comparison to others but to set your sights on what you can do in comparison to your own best self. With this mindset shift feedback takes on a completely new meaning.
With excellence and personal best as the target, feedback is desired and pursued because it no longer defines you. Now feedback becomes the fuel capable of refining you.
Feedback is critical to personal growth and elevating performance. Who do you listen to and seek out that helps you see the truth about who you really are?
The biggest room in the world is the room for improvement. You can always get better and it begins with having an accurate assessment of your opportunities for growth.
Who’s your coach? Who do you welcome to engage you in a courageous conversation—to tell you what you need to hear when you need to hear it?