It seems all professionals once had a mentor that gave a piece of advice that stuck with them. A quote or phrase that they find ringing true throughout their career. And I am no different. The only difference: there may not be a diplomatic way to share this advice with you.
So, let’s start with the background.
It was eight o’clock in the morning. It was an undergraduate, senior-level consumer law class. I was probably the only twenty-two-year-old awake and listening by the look of things. And what the professor said at that hour of the day in a borderline sarcastic delivery was the piece of advice that has stuck with me through my career.
She said, “You have to tell people why they suck.”
Am I the only one who just heard this?! Yes, probably, seeing as most of the other students were barely half-awake. There I was, coffee in hand, alert – as the morning person that I am – and laughing because of this professor’s seemingly ridiculous advice.
She went on to say, “Don’t deliver it wrapped in a bow. Don’t sugarcoat it. You have to say ‘You suck because’ and then go on to tell them a pointed, direct, and unemotional manner.”
I took stock that her advice probably had some merit, but I didn’t realize until I began my career how often it would come to mind.
My professional experience is this: building the strength to deliver harsh truths to your team can make the difference that will drive superior business results.
At the time, the advice sounded downright mean-spirited. However, I have found that honesty, truthfulness, and a direct and frequent delivery of critical feedback is pivotal to company performance. Beyond that, it is essential for the recipients, as it is an important way they learn to elevate their own performance. Myself included. Challenging feedback from my bosses along the way shaped me into a better leader and professional.
Now, I haven’t said those words verbatim in my career. I have also worked diligently to build rapport with employees so they are open-minded to receiving feedback, which is an art in and of itself. But I have found, time and again, that companies, teams, employees and managers alike all drive better results and higher levels of performance when someone isn’t afraid to tell someone else why they suck.