One of the largest accelerators in my career was a manager when I first started out telling me that I wasn’t up for an early promotion. I never took his words as demoralizing, I took them as genuine feedback on how to achieve the stretch goals I wanted. I also didn’t take that as a “no”. I simply took it as “try harder”, which is exactly what I did. I asked him what I need to do to earn that promotion, I did it and I ended up getting that early promotion. In the end, the manager congratulated me for proving him wrong and I thanked him for setting the bar higher and because it made me better.
We’ve all heard the story of the grade the founder of FedEx got on his business plan for FedEx, or how Walt Disney was told he had no artistic talent, or how Kate Winslet was told she would never be a great actress. The assumptions are that their reviewer’s never saw their talent. I prefer to look at it as one of the steps they each had to take to strengthen their talent to achieve greatness. Would they have achieved the level of accomplishment or success if they weren’t told “no” or given a higher bar to reach. If they were told “nice job”, would they have just plodded along and achieved success but not greatness?
We should think about this as we conduct performance reviews and give daily feedback to our teams. Are we helping them grow and achieve their success by only saying “good job”? If we give them a higher bar, provide them specific and direct actions or improvements to make, could they achieve a higher level of success. If we challenge our team to reach their potential by giving them what may be the hard truth, aren’t we helping them be the best they can be? Are you being their best manager by simplying patting them on their heads? Think about how you can restructure your words to actually motivate and encourage your team to stretch.