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The 60-Second Consultant


A minute of shared wisdom
about 360-degree feedback
coaching and leadership
from Timothy Bentley

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Escaping My Accuser

"Excuse me! Excuse me!"

I was riding my bicycle, when I heard her critical voice from behind. I'd just merged with a heavy stream of bike traffic, and without a glance backwards, I knew what she was complaining about.

I'd gotten in her way.

I pretended I didn't hear her. It was a reasonable excuse, given the noise of the traffic. I had no desire to deal with an angry critic.

So I pushed on the pedals, racing along the street for several more blocks.

I made a left turn across traffic and down the laneway that leads to my backyard, opened the gate, and was almost safely inside. Then I heard it again.

"Excuse me! Excuse me!"

My heart sank. Sure enough, there she was, riding up the lane toward me.

I was about to get an earful.

"Here," she said. "You dropped your cell phone."

She held it out to me, red-faced, clearly out of breath. "Boy, you sure ride fast!"

Then she turned and peddled out to the street, while I said a warm, embarrassed, thank you to her departing back.

The difficulty of receiving and giving feedback

Reflecting later, a couple of ideas washed over me.

First, I'm sometimes so unwilling to listen to critical feedback, that I miss the gifts kind people have to offer me.

If there was ever a reminder of the importance of helping people open themselves to feedback, this was it.

Second, people are nervous about being direct. If, instead of a timid "Excuse me", my rescuer had yelled, "Hey, stop, you dropped your phone," I'd have screeched to a halt on the street.

But let's face it, no one is terribly confident about confronting other people's problems.

Which is why formalized programs like 360-degree feedback, providing a safe structure for difficult communications, are gifts to us all.

Still, I wonder, did I cut her off?


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