The 60-Second Consultant

By Timothy Bentley

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Thanks To The Unaware Coachee

14 August 2018

by Timothy Bentley

A story from 20 years ago. Esther and I had a coaching client who was genuinely confused about why he was stalled in his career.

We didn’t think he was deliberately holding out on us. But we guessed that he was missing some vital information about his impact in the workplace.

With his agreement, we interviewed his colleagues. They revealed that he was a capable person, but self-involved, unaware of the needs of those around him, insensitive to the trail of hurt feelings he left behind him.

That information shocked him, and provided a valuable teaching moment. He committed to improving his interpersonal skills, and made a lot of progress.

For us the experience was life-changing. It convinced us that frank feedback could provide crucial insight into how our clients were seen by others.

With the next client, we modified our approach. We created a single questionnaire and circulated it to several of the client’s colleagues. Again the results were stunning. The lights went on for her, and we recognized that 360-degree feedback had huge potential to help people get unstuck.

The only hassle was the many grueling hours we spent compiling the data for each client, calculating columns of ratings, fixing our inevitable errors, printing and re-printing reports.

The alternative was to buy a fixed 360-degree feedback paper questionnaire, get people to respond, and mail the completed forms to the provider, who in the fullness of time would compile a report. It was arbitrary, slow, and costly.

So we asked our son, a programming whiz kid, to knock together a spreadsheet to automate the process. Colleagues and friends asked if they too could use it, and as Esther announced one day, “There’s a real need for this!”

Within a few months, back in 1998, our son produced the first successful online 360 ever. We called it Panoramic Feedback. It has matured over these two decades till it’s hardly recognizable from its first appearance and has attracted thousands of users on every continent.

But we owe it all to our first unaware client. Our deepest thanks, wherever you are.

[A 60-Second Consultant encore.]

Timothy Bentley is Chief Operating Officer of Panoramic Feedback