Will it break them?
Reflections on helping.
I provide expert opinion and feedback in many facets of my life—as an innovation expert, martial arts instructor, academic, business consultant...
Those that solicit my feedback know they can expect candid, to-the-point and well-argued opinion.
And yet, I always have this tiny little worry that what I have to offer might be the last straw; the one that proverbially breaks the camel’s back.
A student might drop their martial art practice.
A leader might abandon their innovation ambitions.
A researcher might give up on their inquiry.
That’s why I always focus on the specific and practical in my feedback, especially if it is negative.
Seven months ago I worked with a team that had a great idea. Everything, and I mean everything, else was abysmal. Execution was all over the place. They focused on the weirdest things. Progress was there, but again, in all the wrong (or rather, suboptimal) directions.
I told them that. I highlighted their strong points. I pointed at each and every case where their actions didn’t really connect with their intentions. I also made sure to explain why is that so.
My ultimate recommendation was that even though there is some promise in their idea, it would take a lot of (re)work to get it back on track. Hence, they should consider abandoning it. We shook hands, and parted ways.
This morning I received their update. Shocking turnaround. They took the feedback to heart and managed to make the idea even better.
They did not break.
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