Isolation from feedback is one of the most difficult aspects of being an independent business owner/operator or senior executive. In the case of the independent, feedback is difficult to find because of secluded working conditions. In the case of the senior executive, feedback is difficult to come by because colleagues will not offer it, and when they do it’s hard to tell if they are acting in your best interests or for a personal political objective.
So people in both situations go home and talk about work to their spouse or a trusted confidante. Though such trusted others are undoubtedly of benefit in terms of personal insight, they can’t provide feedback about work habits, skills, decision-making, or interaction with customers, vendors and other business associates. Though there is no perfect replacement for this lack, there is something each of us can do to become more objective about ourselves. When we do this we can give ourselves feedback that cannot be obtained from others.
Two important steps each objectivity-seeker should implement immediately are goal setting and goal review. We are not speaking of broad goals in this context, but rather, very specific behavioral and activity goals. For instance, before making a phone call to a prospective customer, write down on the top of your notebook what do I expect to accomplish on this call, and what steps must I take during the call in order to be successful? Immediately upon ending the call, review the goal and the steps you had planned to take, and grade yourself on your performance.
This can also be done prior to engaging in a potentially combative situation. Before stepping into the other person’s place of business or picking up the phone, carefully write down your goals for the transaction. In addition to asking what must I accomplish during this conversation and what steps will I take in order to be successful, make sure you add how do I wish to behave in order to be successful?
You can use this type of goal setting and review to plan what you wish to accomplish at the beginning and end of each day, to plan your approach to learning a new business skill, to assess your demonstration of a particular skill, or to evaluate a decision-making experience. The initial deliberateness of this process may seem time-consuming and forced. But if you stick with it you will find that you are able to make mini-goals on the fly – even in the face of surprise conflict or rapidly changing conditions.
The key to achieving objective self-feedback is to evaluate everything for which you set a goal immediately upon completion of the task. The act of comparing your performance to pre-planned intentions forces objective analysis and the result is the type of candid feedback we would receive from a trusted friend who only wants to see us succeed.
(c) 2008. Andrea M. Hill