30 years ago as a young manager I thought I knew it all, I was climbing the corporate ladder faster than a speeding bullet and everything was going my way, I was on ‘fire’!
Then one day out of nowhere the CEO got really excited about a new idea that had just hit town; the entire management team should participate in something called 360 degree feedback. In my youth and arrogance I jumped at the opportunity to see the evidence for myself from my boss, peers and all of the staff reporting to me tell me just how brilliant I really was. I couldn’t wait.
You can guess what came next, an extremely rude awakening; talk about delusional.
Not only was I not regarded by some others as quite as amazing as I had perceived myself, I learned a long overdue lesson that some things had to change. I needed to make a few serious adjustments to my management style.
I can honestly hold that simple yet challenging and daunting process up as one of the most valuable lessons I have learned in my career. It’s now one I embrace and repeat frequently to learn the truth, get myself a reality check and get back on the right track.
The lesson was invaluable as a development tool and today as a professional speaker I take every opportunity I can to do the same.
Each time I speak I ask my audience to tell me:
What was your first impression when I began presenting, i.e. within the first 5 minutes?
Was my message really clear, and if so what was it?
What did you think of my style of delivery, i.e. posture, gestures, eye contact, vocal variety, movement, etc.?
What did you think of the way I supported my message and tried to bring it to life i.e. explanations, examples, illustrations, statistics, analogies, stories and anecdotes
What did you think of the visual aids I used (if appropriate) to help bring my message to life, i.e. did they support the effectiveness of the presentation or detract from it?
What will you remember and do now?
What part of the presentation needs the most improvement and how would you suggest I achieve this?
What difference did my presentation make to you?
Each time I ask these questions I learn something of value which in turn helps my audience the next time around. It’s a challenge but if you have the stomach for it then it’s definitely a win/win.
They are not easy questions to ask and often the answers aren’t easily received but it’s vital for your next audience that you ask them, receive them, learn from them and act on them.
Whatever you do, do not under any circumstances ask the questions unless you are totally prepared to receive the untempered truth.
Their purpose isn’t to satisfy your ego it’s to help your audience.
If you have the courage to, be sure to ask the questions.
If you have the wisdom, be sure to act on the answers.
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