When is the last time that someone sat you down, focused all of their attention on you, and talked to you about the things that you do really well?
Are you still thinking?
It’s usually hard to pinpoint the last time that happened because for most of us, it doesn’t happen very often.
Many people struggle when asked to name their own unique strengths.
You probably have a pretty good idea of what your weaknesses are, though. I have no doubt that you could quickly compile a list of the things that you don’t do well. I bet with very little prep time you could shout out a handful of resolutions that you should make this year (probably the same ones that you made last year), and I am sure that right here, on the spot, you could name one thing you really, really suck at.
Why is that? Why is it so hard to recognize our talents and so easy to recognize our weaknesses?
Our weaknesses are much more obvious. They get in our way. They make us feel self-conscious and uncomfortable and therefore our natural tendency is to avoid them. We also have more experience dealing with them. Plenty of people have tried to help us understand what we need to improve about ourselves… our parents, teachers, roommates, siblings, spouses, managers, and yes – even our own children!
If only our strengths were that apparent to us.
Very rarely does someone spend uninterrupted time telling us what we do really well – better than others – so that we can focus on doing those things more often. “Great job,” “you rock,” and “way to go” don’t count. Praise and celebration are important, but do not confuse them with pure, focused, specific feedback. It’s an entirely different animal.
Imagine if your manager were to dedicate time tomorrow morning to talk with you about your strengths. Those behaviors that are so natural for you that sometimes, you are not even aware you are doing them. What if they also shared recent, specific examples of when you displayed those innate behaviors so that you could clearly visualize doing them? And, imagine if your conversation went one step further and focused on how you could use those talents, develop them, and make money with them. Pretty powerful, right?
Since that is probably not on your calendar for tomorrow morning, you can use that time to prepare to provide powerful feedback for someone in your sales organization instead! With only minimal planning time, you can have that kind of an impact.
But, let me warn you. There is a right and a wrong way to do this and it is critical that you do it right. Here’s how:
First, don’t overwhelm yourself by thinking about your whole team right now. Start with one salesperson. Plan for 20 minutes of preparation and 20 minutes of conversation. That’s usually about right. Then, once you get the hang of it, you can schedule your next feedback conversation.
Also, make sure you follow the Ten Steps for Powerful Feedback.
Like most things that are extremely rare, positive feedback is extremely valuable. Do it right, and you can impact the success and the happiness of the individuals you manage. Providing the perfect platform for coaching salespeople, this feedback conversation opens the door to setting clear expectations for how they are going to use them in the future. That is how growth happens.
And, just think. Some day, when your salespeople are asked, “when is the last time that someone sat you down, focused all of their attention on you, and told you all of the things that you do really well?” they will remember the powerful feedback that you gave them and the growth you helped them to achieve.
Beth Sunshine is the VP of Talent Services at The Center for Sales Strategy