Consultants around the globe have made mountains of money teaching people how to appropriately deliver negative feedback message. Ooops… I mean constructive feedback messages. I don’t think we’re allowed to use the word negative anymore in case it bruises somebody’s self-esteem. Recently, though I was reflecting on some of the most effective feedback messages that were delivered to me like a swift kick in the head and it made me wonder about the benefits of being blunt.
I once had a boss tell me that my way of delivering feedback to him was about as “smooth as a stucco bathtub”. I had another tell me that I was a “bit of a hot head” while a direct report told me I was a “loose cannon”. All comments were made when I was in the midst of bitching about something and were both as result of the person on the receiving end being sick of hearing me griping. Each comment was off the cuff, delivered with a degree of frustration by the sender and weren’t couched in any niceties. And guess what… they stuck.
When I was in the early years of the Executive Roundtable, I formed a “mastermind” group to help me grow my business. I guess I must have been in the usually “early entrepreneur” stages of panic around how I was going to build business for a few meetings in a row, when one of my group members snapped “you’re just making everything too difficult for yourself. You’ve got to get into a flow state. Stop overcomplicating everything!” Ouch. Kick to the head.
So, I’ve been thinking… maybe the kick to the head, direct feedback message said in moments of frustration by the deliverer are the kinds of “bucket of cold water” moments we all need to pull us out of whatever pity party we’re throwing for ourselves and help us get moving in a better direction. That cold water may sting at first, but it also gives you clarity.
If you’re feeling badly that you blurted out a direct feedback message to someone that landed a little rough, don’t be. Maybe it’s just what they needed to get moving in the right direction. Of course, boot-to-the-head feedback will only work if you’re working from a relationship of high trust and caring for the other person. If you’re just randomly delivering smackdown type of feedback, you’re simply being a jerk.