Yesterday, I had a frank conversation with our new VP of Operations, where I asked him to provide me with honest feedback — and he delivered. And even though his feedback nudges me outside of my comfort zone, it’s the only thing that will help me become a better person, leader, and even golfer!
I believe we must be willing to be uncomfortable to truly improve — we have to be willing to actively ask for and receive feedback. And my goal in sharing the feedback I received is to challenge you, the reader, to also step into your discomfort zone so you, too, can improve.
Example 1: Work and Leadership
I’m blessed to be developing a deep relationship with our new VP of Operations — we speak to each other openly and with vulnerability, and the honesty in our meetings is refreshing. With that in mind, I felt comfortable asking him to point out my blind spots — what do people perceive about me that I don’t know about myself? And while my ego would rather not share his feedback, I’m stepping outside my comfort zone in the spirit of vulnerability and growth.
- I may not be as approachable as I thought: Our VP shared that the people on our production floor recognized that I was very visible and on the floor daily. But outside of the day shift, he noticed that some of our workers were intimidated to talk to me. Others would talk to me but only tell me what they thought I wanted to hear. He shared, “This probably isn’t fair to you because I can see you’re trying to be approachable, but you probably need to go the extra mile in seeking their input.”
- I should be firmer in my expectations: My VP’s feedback was that he noticed I could be direct in meetings and then would try to be nice afterward, which could come across as “inauthentic.” This was tough to hear, as authenticity is my goal! He suggested that “…sometimes the team needs to see you are upset. Be respectful, but be direct.” This feedback was a helpful reminder that one of my blind spots is seeking the approval of others, which is why being direct without trying to “soften the blow” can be challenging for me.
- I should give feedback directly to the source: He clarified that he also struggled with this, given that we have nine production plants. For me, he suggested I give plant appearance feedback directly to the specific plant manager rather than lumping my observations into a more general message all plant managers receive.
Example 2: Golf Lesson
The evening after my feedback meeting with the VP of Operations, I was taking a golf lesson with a new instructor. This was my second lesson as I attempt to improve my golf game after plateauing at a six handicap for the last few years. After seeing me hit a few shots and filming my swing, my instructor (someone who I specifically sought out due to his status as a “top 100 teacher”) asked me, “How open are you to change?” I responded, “That’s why I’m here.”
He told me I was doing things well, considering I am a six handicap. However, he can see why I have plateaued. What was wrong?
- My right-hand grip was too weak.
- My upper body turn was “nonexistent.” He asked, “Do you work out or do cardio?” I replied that I have been working out with a golf-specific trainer for two-plus years. He said, “Well, I can see you are strong. But you aren’t incorporating mobility into your swing—it’s nonexistent.”
- Finally, he pointed out how my right knee sometimes flares out on my backswing. I told him a former golf pro I’d played with had also pointed that out and told me I couldn’t be good until I fixed that.
“Well, they’re right,” he said.
Alone with My Thoughts
This instructor is so booked that his lessons only run 30 minutes, so it wasn’t long before I was driving back home alone with my thoughts.
Is this even worth it, I wondered?
“No wonder I suck at golf!” was what I blurted out getting back on the highway.
And even deeper in the recesses of my heart, a faint whisper said, “…And you aren’t that good at work either.”
The Next Day
I woke up the day after my lesson and my first thought was a personal declaration:
I am open to feedback, and I want to get better.
Frankly, the work feedback was much easier to hear than the golf feedback.
But — and here is the kicker — in the deep recesses of my heart, I know that both the work and golf feedback were accurate.
Discomfort is Unavoidable
If my goal is to get better, I cannot (and should not) avoid discomfort.
For example, writing this post is uncomfortable, but I find value in documenting the process — and I am inviting you to join — IF you want to improve.
If you don’t…you don’t have to be open to feedback.
If you do…welcome to discomfort.
Welcome to the pursuit of improvement.