Invite Feedback; Accelerate Your Career

Apr 23, 2012

This article, along with my previous article, Your Relationship and Reputation Credit Score: How You Earned It and How It Affects Your Relationship Karma, is designed to help you help the people you serve, whether you are in the recruiting or career development field.

In the previous article, we explored how the way we treat others creates, metaphorically speaking, a credit score that affects whether people want to do business with us, help us, or … hire us. This score also affects whether people trust and respect us. While it affects every aspect of one’s professional life, a person’s “Relationship and Reputation Credit Score” plays an especially central role in one’s job hunt and career trajectory.

Enjoying the positive career benefits of a high Relationship and Reputation Credit Score requires emotional intelligence, especially in the dimension of self-awareness. It requires cutting through the self-absorption brought on by busyness and preoccupation with one’s projects and agendas. It requires not taking liberties with the position power we have, and thinking that small acts of disrespect — like repeatedly taking calls or texting during meetings with “subordinates” — go unnoticed and leave no emotional wake. It requires becoming mindful of the many Relationship and Reputation Moments Of Truth which, depending on how we handle them, build up or diminish our Relationship and Reputation Credit Score over time.

Becoming More Mindful of Relationship and Reputation Moments of Truth

Here are a few examples of what I mean by Relationship and Reputation Moments Of Truth that affect our score:

  1. When you say “I’ll get this to you by _____” or “I’ll get back to you by ______” do you keep your word? Do you sincerely do everything you can to make it happen or do you give it a half-hearted attempt, figuring you can always say “I was too busy” or “Something came up”? If you do forget, or something prevents you from delivering on your promise, do you sincerely apologize and commit to making it right, or do you act like not keeping your word was no big deal?
  2. When someone you have done business with contacts you, do you make them call or email repeatedly, rather than respond, figuring if they want to talk to you badly enough, they’ll keep trying or … do you think “How would I like to be treated by someone I have a business relationship with?
  3. Do you take it for granted when people help you out or do something thoughtful for you … or do you follow up and let them know you appreciated what they did?

How we handle these and the myriad of other Relationship and Reputation Moments Of Truth will not only determine our Relationship Karma, but they will profoundly affect the kind of Career Karma we create. Our Relationship and Reputation Credit Score will affect not just whether people will want to hire us, but whether the people in our network want to help us … or not.

Thus, the more we cultivate mindfulness, the greater our ability to recognize and respond to these moments of truth in ways that enhance our “score.”

Self-Awareness Is Necessary, But Not Sufficient

While practicing greater mindfulness about our interactions will make a big difference in our Career Karma, mindfulness alone is not enough. Some behaviors and habits of ours are so second nature, so unconscious, that no amount of mindfulness will make us aware of them. Although we are blind to them, others feel their effect. It’s like someone with bad breath or body odor. They don’t notice it, but everybody else does.

When we engage in habits that inhabit the “Don’t know that you don’t know” zone, we can inadvertently shoot ourselves in the foot — on the job, at networking events, on job interviews — and have no idea. We can be damaging our Relationship and Reputation Credit Score and bringing bad Career Karma without ever knowing.

Let me give you an example.

The Job-interview-destroying Maneuver

A while back, I heard a story that was both jaw-dropping and sad. The story came out of an interview with Dr. David Polk of York College of Pennsylvania’s Center for Professional Excellence about their fascinating research on what employers value most in employees and what they see Gen Y college graduates bringing to the table instead.

In describing the program, York College has created to teach students the attitudes and behaviors that personify professionalism, he told me a story that a local CEO shared with his class. The CEO was talking about what he looks for in a job applicant. As an example of what not to do, he told them about a recent interviewee whose cell phone rang during the interview.

Rather than apologizing for forgetting to shut it off, the young man raised his index finger, said “Just a minute,” and then took the call! The CEO ended the story by saying “The sad part is that he will never know why he didn’t get the job.”

I remember thinking “I wish the CEO had told this Gen Y job searcher. Even though the job applicant should have known better, obviously he didn’t.”

I don’t know if the CEO simply didn’t want to deal with the discomfort of giving the feedback, or if he was so put out by this Gen Y job applicant’s rudeness he had no interest in helping him grow. Whatever the reason for his choice not to say something, this young man missed out on some important feedback.

While we could explore the responsibility we have to share feedback that can help fellow humans to grow and call forth their best self, that isn’t the focus of this article.

Instead, I want to explore what we can do to invite important feedback from others, so that WE can call forth our best self, so that WE can grow personally and professionally.

Think of Yourself As Being In the “Experience Business”

In the world of customer service, leading-edge companies focus on analyzing how they can create a great customer experience, not just deliver an efficient transaction. Soliciting customer feedback is obviously a crucial part of their strategy.

Imagine trying to deliver a brand-building customer experience without soliciting customer feedback. That would be crazy, wouldn’t it? Smart companies know that just because THEY think they give great customer service, doesn’t mean their customers do. In fact, the reverse is usually true.

Don’t Be “That Guy”

Now, think about people you know who are bright and talented, but because of certain unpleasant ways of interacting or presenting themselves, they turn people off. Their co-workers avoid them and exclude them if at all possible. Their co-workers talk behind their backs about how difficult or irritating they are.

Maybe these repellent people don’t listen but instead “talk at” others, maybe they’re self-centered, or perhaps they don’t honor their commitments — e.g. promises like “I’ll definitely get that to you by Wednesday” from them is meaningless.

Maybe they confuse confidence with brashness, and exhibit behaviors that irritate others, rather than create credibility.

Maybe they get defensive whenever anybody gives them anything but positive feedback and praise.

Whatever their Achilles Heel, you can see it, others can see it, but they can’t … or won’t. Without knowing it, they are executing Career Limiting Behaviors on a regular basis.

Don’t be that guy.

Be Like Smart Companies and Smart Managers

Be like smart companies that ask for feedback on what they do that annoys their customers and what they can do to create a stellar experience. To grow your career, you want to create a stellar experience of YOU.

Be like the smart companies who ask their customers for feedback about the experience they deliver.

Be like smart managers who ask their direct reports for feedback about what they do that interferes with their direct reports doing their jobs, what they do that frustrates them, and what they could change to be an even better manager and role model. Those managers get the valuable information they need to maximize their ability to produce results through people.

Your career success depends on YOUR ability to produce results through people. So find out how you can do an even better job of that.

Now, Time For Feedback

To get your feedback, select people in your network who you trust will be honest and kind. Here are examples of questions you can ask them:

  1. What do you see as my strengths in the way I relate to others?
  2. If you were coaching me on how to build my Relationship and Reputation Credit Score (share the article with them first), what would you recommend I do more of?
  3. If you were coaching me on how to build my Relationship and Reputation Credit Score (share the article with them first), what would you recommend I stop doing?
  4. Is there anything that I do in my interactions with you or others that leaves you wondering “What’s up with that? Why does she do that?”
  5. Is there anything that I do in my interactions with you or others that makes you think “It would be so cool if he did _____ more?”

Even though this article focused on identifying Career Karma damaging behaviors, you want to get feedback on your strengths and the good things you do, too. You want to do this for two reasons. First, it’s uncomfortable for most of us to receive negative feedback, and it’s human nature to avoid discomfort. So … if getting feedback only means feeling discomfort, you probably won’t do it. Second, as research by Marcus Buckingham and others shows, discovering your strengths and leveraging them is a very powerful approach to career success and satisfaction, so you want to get that information, too.