As a manager for much of my professional life, I've been responsible for hiring new employees and developing existing employees. Employee development is incredibly important for both the company (because every company needs to have up and coming talent to take over as other employees leave or retire) and for the employees (because few people want to be in a dead-end position with no opportunity to move up).
I'm also a National Trainer for LES MILLS® and I train people to become group fitness instructors. In this role, I spend weekends giving instructors the tools to deliver various fitness classes in a way that is true to the essence of the programs, as they were designed.
In both roles, I enjoy mentoring folks to maximize their skills and move forward in their careers. I've been fortunate that I've had a lot of great mentors in my life, so I feel the need to pay it forward.
When I get asked for advice, I try to make it as constructive as possible. It doesn't mean my advice is always right; I don't think being a mentor means giving the right answers, but rather getting someone to think about things from a different perspective.
Most people appreciate the advice and move forward in their attempts to work on the feedback. But I've seen a couple of other responses too...
1. The person who is looking for THE ANSWER™.
They want to know exactly what they need to do. They're not looking for a dialogue or an opportunity to figure things out for themselves. They are looking for boxes to check.
"Give me a checklist of things I need to do and I'll have it done by next Wednesday!"
THE ANSWER™ isn't always about the destination; often, it's more about the things that you learn and develop on your way to the thing you want. There are a lot of things you can't shortcut, like making good wine and cheese. In the same way, shortcuts in life often prevent us from reaching full development.
As a mentor, I believe my role is to be a sounding board and help to provide a direction. Nobody has THE ANSWER™ and those that claim they do are trying to sell you something.
2. The person who is asking for feedback, but doesn't really want feedback.
"But I'm doing that already" or "that doesn't apply to me". The presumption is that I am dead wrong or blind.
Any time feedback is interrupted or met with excuses or a "but," it's a pretty good indicator I'm working with someone who doesn't actually want feedback, UNLESS I tell them what they want to hear. These people aren't seeking feedback. They are seeking validation. They want to be told how good they are or explain how the system doesn't understand how good they are.
If you truly want to grow, you have to take the feedback, even when you don't like it. A mentor tries to provide what they see combined with their own life experiences. I wouldn't offer feedback if I didn't see something worth mentioning, yet often with these folks, I feel like I need to have video proof to get the point across.
I remember in my journey to become a National Trainer, I actively sought feedback from people who had been through the process. I took each nugget and acted on it. Never in my wildest imagination would I have thought, "I'm already doing that". If someone told me I needed to work on something, they clearly saw something and there was room for me to improve.
So as you proceed on your path and receive feedback, how do you respond? Are you looking for THE ANSWER™ or validation? Or are you really, truly, genuinely open to feedback?
We can't move forward unless we know where we are and where we want to be.