Are You Open to Feedback?

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If we’re open to it, life constantly teaches us lessons about our business, even in ways that we really don’t initially see the relevance of at all.

A few bazillion years ago, I used to be an athlete. I used to be a sprinter. I ran for England and for Great Britain; I was a National Schools champion three times, an Under-23 European Cup winner, and ran for the England Senior team in amazing places like Rome, Moscow, and Gateshead!

And I know you’re probably thinking, “What on earth has that got to do with business, and particularly with your business?” So, let me explain.

The interesting thing is that for me, for a long time, I didn’t think that my athletics really had any relevance at all in my business. I didn’t think it had a role to play, I didn’t think it had taught me anything to do with business. But actually, weirdly enough, as I get older, and the longer I spend in business, the more I’ve come to realise that every single thing we do in life has actually given us skills and lessons and ideas, that translate surprisingly well into our businesses.

If I could share a little story with you, I want to just take you back to about 300 million bazillion years ago, when I was doing some sprint start practice with my coach one day. My coach was, let’s just say, giving me some fairly heavy critique about my sprint start technique, and as a typical bolshy teenager, I was arguing the toss about this, convinced that he just… you know, he didn’t have the right idea about exactly what I was doing.

I was right, he was wrong. And I was adamant, and I was really stubborn! I knew what I felt like at that moment, and I knew that his opinion couldn’t be right.

So what he actually did was he videoed what I was doing, which sounds ridiculously straightforward, but this is so long ago that this is pre-smartphone, so we had to hire a video camera. And of course, when he showed me the video, what became absolutely instantly obvious was that the position that I thought I was in in the starting blocks didn’t look anything like the position that I felt like I was actually in, so there was actually much more scope for me to get better, when I really didn’t think any of that scope was there.

But the thing with this in business, and the way that this applies to us in business, is that it’s very easy for us to base our decisions on how we feel and what we think, and we think we’ve got a very clear, accurate picture. We think we’re absolutely certain about things, but without those outside eyes looking in, without that kind of external objectivity, which is so difficult for us to get ourselves, we’re really operating with a very blinkered view.

This can be particularly relevant at the time that we’re starting a new project. If we’re kicking off something new in our business, a new product, a new service, something new that we’re working on. It’s very easy to have a really clear picture of exactly how you want things to go, how you want things to be set up, exactly how you want everything to work, and you know exactly how you want this to go.

At those moments, it can actually be really daunting to ask for some feedback or ask for an outside objective opinion, because what happens then if somebody gives you some feedback which completely contradicts everything that you’ve got in your mind?

You’ve got this really clear picture of how you want things to work, and somebody else tells you that actually, that’s either not the right way, or that there’s a better way, or that you need to take something else into consideration, and then it can feel as though all of your ideas are blown out of the water.

But actually, what you’ve got is an additional perspective at that point in time. You’re now in a position to be able to make a truly informed decision, rather than just a gut-reaction decision.

So the importance of external feedback as we make our business decisions is absolutely huge. For me, you just don’t know what you don’t know in your business, and that’s why those external people can really give us a perspective that we simply cannot get when we’re embedded so deeply in it. It’s our baby, it’s our passion, and it’s so difficult to really see exactly what’s going on.

Sometimes that means that there are massive areas for improvement, just like my sprint start technique, massive areas for improvement that we just cannot see, and we just cannot grasp.

So my question to you today is, where do you get your external feedback from?

Where do you go when you need an additional opinion, some extra eyes to look at what you’re doing, or somewhere that you can go to brainstorm, somebody that can help you brainstorm and get your ideas out?

Because that level of feedback I think is really important to you as you’re moving your business forwards. If you’re looking to grow, if you’re looking to scale, if you’re looking to improve, getting that kind of feedback is absolutely huge in really helping you to grow and improve.

So, where are you currently getting that feedback from? And if you’re not getting it at the moment, what do you think you could do to change that, to improve things, and actually allow you to get those added viewpoints and added guidance as to how you can take your business forwards?

 

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