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Wednesday, 30 October 2013 19:31

Want to be helpful? Then don’t give feedback!

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Brutal Honesty – only sometimes helpful

brutal honestybrutal honestyOn Friday night, Linda and I went to the local.  I play there occasionally with the band – No Strings Attached – sowe know the pub well. The owners, always trying to generate business, had bought a piano and advertised a new music slot. I fancied a pint and the opportunity to check out the opposition. A 2 for 1 deal.


Usual Suspects:
The place was busy. We squeezed alongside the ‘usual suspects’ at the bar counter (couple of guys seem to be a permanent fixture there).  We ordered drinks and sat quietly listening to the pianist. Eventually, one of the punters turned around and said:

“How’re ya? I know your face.” I said: “Are you enjoying the music?”

“Ah great. She can play anything, that woman. So she can”.

”She certainly knows what she’s doing. It’s really good.”

Thinking that the conversation was over, I turned back to talk to Linda. Then, in the loudest voice that you could possibly imagine, the guy launched into a complete rant.

“I’ll tell you one thing. She’s 10 times better than the shower that were in here last week” (i.e. our band).  Linda twigged what he was talking about and then, trying to contain her amusement and growing excitement, asked: “How bad were they?”

“Bad? They were absolutely shite.  I never heard such tripe. One was worse than the other. They couldn’t play and they couldn’t sing a f***ing note.”

“Was their material any good?” She was openly laughing now, unable to contain herself. This was turning into the best night of her life.

“Brutal. You wouldn’t know any of the stuff. Even if you did, you wouldn’t recognise it.  I’m telling ya, a f***ing car crash.”

I told him I was part of the band he was slagging. He was so pissed he didn’t even hear the comment and  repeated the whole thing again, slightly louder.  Even now, days later, Linda still seems so cheerful. Was that feedback? Yes. Was it helpful? No!

Purple Patch:
When elite sportspeople are going through a good spell, they call it a purple patch. I’m not sure what the opposite of a purple patch is (a blue period?) but I’m in the middle of one right now. My golf game is reminiscent of the quip by Winston Churchill: “Success consists of going from failure to failure without loss of enthusiasm.”   Now, on one level, this has no downside whatsoever. No child has died. No country is at risk of invasion. YouTube hasn’t crashed, losing the video of your granny’s inaugural skateboard lesson. But, on a personal level, it’s immensely frustrating.

Sound Advise:
I was down on the Bull Island, hacking away, playing alongside a guy  I’d never met.  Before we went out, I told him I was trying something different. It would help to set his expectations low (like the recipe for a happy marriage). He was quite tolerant for about 9 minutes. Kept his counsel. Then, when he just couldn’t contain himself any longer,  offered the following advise: “It will take at least 400 hours to change your swing. It’s all to do with muscle memory”.  

Maths Lesson:
Here’s a quick math lesson. If you play golf once a week, for 4 hours, you actually hit the ball for about 30 minutes. So, 400 hours practice (as per his advice) is equal to 800 games or about 16 years of golf in total. The good news could be summarised as follows: You are playing tripe now. Don’t worry. By 2029, that new swing will have clicked in and you will be fine! Was it feedback? Yes. Was it helpful? No!

Say Nothing:  
How does all this low-achiever talk apply to you? The message is simple. If you are someone’s direct manager, then giving feedback is part of your job. Don’t chicken out. In similar vein, if someone asks you directly and you really feel you can help, it’s OK to give feedback – judiciously.  In all other circumstances, no matter how well meaning, you are probably working on your own agenda i.e. making yourself feel important or superior by giving advice to someone else.  Breaking News: You are not some form of human feedback machine.  Desist!

By the way, in relation to our next gig, just contact me for the booking details. I think there are still some seats available.


Read 66719 times Last modified on Wednesday, 30 October 2013 19:39
Paul Mooney

Paul Mooney holds a Ph.D. and a Post-Graduate Diploma in Industrial Sociology from Trinity College, along with a National Diploma in Industrial Relations from the National College of Ireland. He is a Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development and is an expert on organisation and individual change.  His career began as a butcher before moving into production management. He subsequently joined General Electric and Sterling Drug in Ireland and the Pacific Rim.

He was the of President, National College of Ireland and is Managing Partner of Tandem Consulting, a team of senior OD and change specialists. Paul has run consulting assignments in 20+ countries. He is also the author of 10 books covering issues around organisation performance and personal change.

Areas of expertise include: • Organisational Development/Change & conflict resolution • Leadership Development/Executive Coaching • Human Resource Management/employee engagement

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