You're smart. You work hard. You went to a
great school. You may have even gone to
graduate school. And you have a good job.
You want to be promoted, but you haven't
been. You've asked your boss what it will
take for you to take the next step and were
told, "It's just not time yet. Keep doing
what you're doing.” And you do. For one
year, maybe two, maybe three. And three
years later you haven't been moved to a
different job, team, or project and you
don’t know why.
There is a reason you are
being held in your current job. There may be
several reasons, but very few people will
It’s not that your boss
doesn’t want you to succeed, but giving
candid feedback makes most people
uncomfortable. It’s easier not to say
anything. And the things that are holding
you back are hard for your boss and
colleagues to articulate. They’re little
things. They almost seem petty to even
mention, but they’re preventing you from
getting where you want to go.
The key to accelerating your career is to
know your reputation.
father has been telling me my whole life
“you can’t control what people think, so
don’t bother trying.” He’s not wrong. People
are going to make their own opinions and
judgments. But we choose what we put in
front of people. We choose what they see,
and thus what they judge.
The only way to find out
what people think of how you come across is
to ask them. And know that most people won’t
tell you, even when you ask. But a few will.
A few courageous souls, who want to make a
difference for you will tell you how you’re
seen. And when they do, make it easy for
them. Make the experience go down like
candy, so they’ll want to do it again.
The right response to
negative feedback is, “Thank you.” Saying
“thank you” doesn’t mean that they are right
or that you agree. It means you heard them
and appreciate the risk they took in telling
No one wants to make
anyone feel badly. So they won’t tell you
the things you do to damage your reputation
and frustrate others, instead, they’ll tell
I used to work for a
woman who all too frequently used the
phrase, “Feedback is a gift.” She usually
said this either right before or after she
verbally annihilated one of our team
members. After verbally decimating one of
us, she’d twitter, “Feedback is a gift!” And
while her positive spin on the verbal butt
kicking we had just gotten was annoying, she
So few people
will be honest with you, when someone takes
off the kid gloves and just tells you like
it is, it’s a gift. It’s the most valuable
thing anyone in the workplace can do for
feedback you’ll sit in your current job year
in and year out, wondering why your career
isn’t going anywhere. And eventually you’ll
become frustrated and leave your company,
only to quickly become pigeonholed in your
next job. The keys to being successful in
business are the same everywhere, not just
at your current company. And if you don’t
master those things, your career will
stagnate wherever you are.
If this feedback is so important, but hard
to get, how do you find out how you’re seen?
Find a few key people in your life who care
about you. Don’t seek feedback from the
person in the office who hates you, covets
your job or has an ax to grind. Being
straight is a risk; someone who cares about
you is more likely to take that risk.
Approach friends, family
members and colleagues who have observed you
in different settings. Tell them that you
are working on understanding how others’
perceive you and that you would be very
grateful if you can take them to lunch and
ask for some feedback. Promise that whatever
their feedback is, you’ll say thank you.
A few questions to ask colleagues, friends,
and family members:
- What first impression do I create?
- What am I like to work with? If they
don’t work with you, ask what they think
you would be like to work with.
- What is my best skill?
- What’s an area you think I need to
- What is a time I let you down?
- If a group of my colleagues were
sitting in a conference room and were
asked to talk about me, what would they
feedback, ask questions for more
information and for clarification. Ask
for examples if the feedback isn’t
specific. And regardless of how hard it
is to hear, don’t defend yourself.
Instead, ask permission to follow up
later after you’ve had a chance to think
about and digest the feedback.
Knowing what people think and are saying
about you will give you the power to
control what you put in front of others
and take charge of your career.