Below is a copy of a blog post I wrote a few years ago about running. The principles about the benefits of getting feedback, particularly from someone outside of the situation, apply to businesses. If you are a sole trader, you may want to get the view of a mentor or business consultant.
I was having supper with my younger daughter, Charlotte, at the Bay View Inn a few weeks ago and was surprised by what she said. Now that I live at the other end of Cornwall from her, we do not see each other as often as we used to. This was the first time I had seen her since completing the Kalahari Augrabies Extreme Marathon in October.
We chatted and caught up with each other’s news and then inevitably the conversation turned to the Kalahari event. Charlotte is very knowledgeable about it; she has crewed on it three times and grown up listening to her father talk about it. I said that I had struggled this year and thought it was my slowest ever. “No, it wasn’t Dad” she immediately replied, “I was following your progress via the website and there are a couple of years that you were slower”. I was aware that she knew how I was doing because she had sent me a lovely email of support during the event, which I got on the rest day. The organisers print emails out and deliver them to the overnight camps the following day. What I had not realised was the depth of her interest and that she would look back at the history to see how I was doing compared with previous years. It gave me a nice warm feeling inside.
Our conversation was interrupted by the start of the pub quiz on gin. The Bay View Inn has a good range of speciality gins; many of them from Cornwall. We did not do very well in the quiz, but we didn’t come last. Just before we left Charlotte asked if I was going back in 2019. I replied that I wasn’t sure. Completing 10 was my big aim and I achieved this in 2016. I had always planned a year off after that. Going back in 2018 had been wonderful, but I now felt that I could pick and choose when I go back. Charlotte, who is always direct said “Don’t be too picky, if you want to do another 10 you haven’t got a lot of time to play with.” (I am 64).
Later, when I was lying in bed and reflecting on the evening, still enjoying the rosy glow from the fact that Charlotte had shown so much interest in what her Dad was doing, I thought about how useful her feedback was. She had observed what was happening and looked at the data, so knew it wasn’t my slowest performance. I had been relying on emotion and been subjective about my performance labelling it my worst. Charlotte helped me put it in context. And when it came to thinking of the future, I was looking at it from an internal perspective, I would pick and choose. She had an external view and saw the whole picture; I do have limited time. If I do not miss a year, I will be 73 when I complete my 20th, not a too ambitious a goal as the oldest finisher so far is Harry Hunter aged 70. But miss a few years and the goal will become much tougher and possibly out of reach.
Thank you, Charlotte, for providing clarity.
Feedback should always be about behaviour not personality, I know that Charlotte loves me and would never personally criticise me. We had some moments during her teenage years, and I remember her turning around one day and say, “Dad, you irritate the hell out of me, I know it is because you care, but it’s still bloody irritating.” Get feedback from someone you have a good relationship with, and it will be focused on helping you. Charlotte knows how important the Kalahari Augrabies Extreme Marathon is to me so is prepared to point out that I am getting on a bit and need to get a move on achieving my goal. I know that she cares so I take heed of what she says.
If you don’t have someone you have an exceptionally good relationship with who can comment knowledgeably on your business find someone you have no relationship with i.e., an external consultant.
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