Feedback that works!

Columns - Notes From the Grunderground

I remember the first time I really got some honest, good feedback that made a difference in my life.

April 14, 2010

Marty Grunder I remember the first time I really got some honest, good feedback that made a difference in my life. Growing up in my house, you basically played one sport, and that sport was baseball. My dad was quite a baseball player growing up; he didn’t tell me this, he could have played in college and maybe even beyond. My dad was very humble and quiet.

I was actually a very good player when I was young, and my early accomplishments on the ball diamond made my father very proud. I desperately wanted to do well at the game, both for him and for me. But in high school, my coach told me I would make the team, but I would not play much because I just wasn’t good enough to start. At 5 feet 5 inches and 115 pounds, I wasn’t going to scare anyone, and I hated to hear that the coach didn’t think I wasn’t that good. But he was right, whether I wanted to believe it or not.

I came home that day and told my dad I wasn’t sure I wanted to play anymore, since the coach said I wasn’t good enough to start. I asked my dad if maybe I ought to quit baseball and just work and save money for college. He said that maybe that would be best. When my coach told me I wasn’t very good, it hurt, but now that I think back, that feedback really helped me.

Today, I run one of the Midwest’s finest landscaping companies. (I hope you think your company is one of the best in your region, too.) I have authored two books and have a third in the works. I speak professionally all over the U.S. and abroad, and I get to work with all kinds of small business owners and help make their dreams come true. I have a wonderful wife and family. My children are a lot like me, but  also far better athletes than I was and they are better students, too. They have a great mother to thank for that.

I owe my success in part to that coach who was honest with me. Which leads me to question you: How honest are you with your own team?

When is the last time you sat down and did a review with them? When someone on your team does something you don’t like or isn’t good for the company, do you look the other way or do you take action? In many ways candor is dead in our country, folks. We need to get back to where feedback is a good thing, not a bad thing.

Recently, a client of my consulting company called me to tell me what they were going to do with their business. I could not have disagreed more with the path they were taking. I told them that they needed to work their plan better, stay focused on the course at hand and everything would work out.

I spoke from experience; it was not advice I thought might work. They got upset with me and only heard me telling them I thought they were stupid and not capable to making a good decision. This was not what I was doing at all. I was trying to help; I was giving feedback. Maybe my words weren’t right, but the problem was that my client didn’t want any feedback. Instead, they wanted me to tell them they had made a great decision. I couldn’t do that, I had to tell them they had made a mistake. I could be wrong, but at least I was honest.

I don’t have all the answers – no one does. But if you want to get better, if you truly want to improve, you have to accept all feedback. No one likes to be told they aren’t doing a good job or their talents can be used in some other area. But if you think about it long and hard, the only way we improve is by seeking feedback and taking it to heart and making the necessary improvements to reach our full potential. A little ‘friendly discourse’ is very, very healthy. Mature entrepreneurs know this.

The best people in our lives are the ones who have the guts to tell us what they think. Those who try to give you honest feedback are showing you how much they care about you. No one likes conflict with someone close to them, but if that’s what makes them better, isn’t that a good thing? Someone telling me how great I am really doesn’t help me. Someone telling me what I can do to get better is someone I want to spend time with – and someone who can make me and my business more money. And since I like making money, I’ll stay around those who give me honest feedback and take my lumps all the way to the bank!