The $67,250 lesson

The $67,250 lesson

If you’re short on time, the $67.25K lesson is that you should provide feedback to people the way they want to receive feedback, not the way you want to receive feedback.

If you want to know how I learned this lesson, read on.

During the year of 2012 I embarked on a year-long intensive journey that was my MBA (go Gaels!). There were a lot of great people met, relationships forged and experiences shared. The best thing to come out of this program for me was WIRL, but I would not be doing the program justice if I did not mention the learning.

While there were plenty of takeaways from the Profs, the greatest lesson I learned (and retained) was from my immediate teammates.

During the third week of the program I was debriefing a dysfunctional working session. I provided candid and unvarnished feedback to each member of the team, which was fairly brash given that we were still getting to know one another. I took this approach because it was how I liked to receive feedback. No bullshit, just tell me how I can improve. This approach wasn’t received well by all. Two of the eight members were ok with it, while others fired back that I should “highlight what they did well, followed by what they could improve, and reiterate once again what they did well”. This was also known as the proverbial shit sandwich.

I was always familiar with the sandwich method, but never cared for it. Whether it was my coaching or athletic background, I always felt this method danced around the real issues and would prevent a team from reaching their potential. I slept on it for a week and ultimately concluded that everyone responds to feedback and challenges differently. If our team were to fire on all cylinders, then everyone would have to be comfortable – and so I undertook the challenge of trying to manage people the way they wanted to be managed – or at least provide feedback to each individual the way they wanted to receive it. It wasn’t easy, and at times was draining, but it signified great management – listening, understanding and leading selflessly. This ultimately led to a tight knit and high-performing team during the program.

I’ve taken this lesson with me to WIRL – applying it to our team and to our product. I actually came across it again at our recent HR+Tech Professionals meetup. I was moderating an awesome panel on “Best Practices of Employee Feedback” and this emerged as the theme of the evening. A great manager should take the time to get to know each of their employees – what makes them tick and what makes them thrive. A great manager should provide feedback in the manner preferred by the recipient: direct or deliberate, public or private, and as frequent as desired.

The MBA cost $67K. The meetup cost $250.

This one is on the house.

A WIRL-d of thanks for reading!


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