I was watching TV the other night – purely for the purpose of doing research for this blog post, of course, when I was drawn into an episode of “Restaurant: Impossible.” For anyone unfamiliar with this reality show, celebrity chef Robert Irvine helps failing restaurants make a turnaround. In two days, Robert and his team completely revamp the restaurant’s interior and address the problems that are causing the business to fail – which are often rooted in the dysfunctional relationships between the owners and staff.
What I found particularly telling in this episode was that the owner, a single mom, desperately needed to save her business or she would lose her home. Safe to say she had a lot at stake. She claimed she was baffled as to why cooks and kitchen managers continually walked off the job and agreed she’d like to know why. Yet when Robert provided her the answers, which he’d gleaned by interviewing two former employees and the current staff, she refused to accept the truth: Her lack of leadership and angry outbursts were driving staff away and making it difficult on those who remained. She subsequently threw a temper tantrum caught by the film crew. So much for her denial. Eventually, she seemed to accept the truth, vowed to change her ways, and, as in every episode, the clouds parted, the sun came out and everyone rejoiced! The new and improved restaurant opened its doors to a grateful, hungry crowd.
What can we learn from that owner? And for that matter, from Robert, who has a blunt, often abrasive style? When it comes to speaking your truth, there must be a foundation of trust between the person seeking honesty and the one providing it. And if we’ve asked for it, (“No, please tell me the truth.”) we need to be ready to hear the other person’s truth, not go into a defensive or angry mindset. That behavior keeps us stuck and limited.
You the one being asked to cough up honesty? Here are a few guidelines when speaking your truth specific to giving feedback:
- Focus on the behavior, not the person, so that you avoid putting the person down or embarrassing them.
- Be detailed and specific about the issue.
- Ask for the person’s help in resolving the matter and discuss solutions.
- Agree on the corrective steps to be taken and the timeframe for implementation.
- Plan a follow-up meeting to assess the effectiveness of the actions.
When corrective feedback is given and received in a respectful manner, it reduces the likelihood of misunderstanding and ensures an environment where people can safely speak their truth.
Have you had any notable experiences giving or receiving feedback? I’d love for you to share them!