I had been in my last job for a couple months when the division director left. As he was leaving, he gave all his direct reports an unofficial, not written down performance appraisal. He wanted to share insights with each of us. It was not part of our permanent record and simply done out of a genuine desire for us to improve. What he told me was life changing.
He said that since he had had a little time to get to know me, he knew that I did accept new ideas and would adapt them to the situation. He was impressed by that. He then warned me, however, that initially I came across as not being receptive.
Because of his presentation, I did not feel defensive, and I didn’t feel the need to immediately refute what he had just said. I told him that I was glad he was able to see that I really am open to new ideas, and I asked him for an example of a situation where I was giving off the negativity vibe. He was able to provide one! In thinking back to that moment, what was going through my mind was, “Hmmmmmmmmm. How would that work?” but unfortunately for my conveying my real point-of-view, my thinking face looks like my disbelieving face (yes, I did check this out in the bathroom mirror afterwards, and that was truly the case!).
He didn’t have to do this. He could have simply come in on his last day, said his goodbyes, eaten cake, and left. Instead he took the time to help.
My whole meeting with him took less than ten minutes, and it forever changed how I handle receiving new information. Now, when a new idea comes across, I say, “I’ve never thought of doing it that way. How would that work?” This normally starts a brainstorming session, and either a better way of doing things is created or there were interconnected parts of the status quo that are revealed. I now outwardly convey what is going on inside. It matches.
Whenever I think about this situation, I realize two very important things that I try to duplicate. First, how you present the information is just as important (sometimes more so) than what is actually said. Because it was a relaxed environment and there were no repercussions associated with the meeting, I wasn’t defensive. I believed that he was telling me this to help me improve. Secondly,use your words! My facial expressions do not convey what they think they are conveying, and people can’t read my mind.
What was the most influential advice you have ever received?