1. What’s the best way to deliver bad news?
Let’s start with the obvious. No one likes to hear bad news. It makes us feel lousy and, unless you are a masochist, you don’t welcome that feeling. In addition, emotions can sometimes get the better of us and we either fault the messenger or fail to hear the message altogether.
With this in mind, whenever possible I try to deliver bad news verbally and in person. As the messenger, to make sure I wasn’t blamed and thus become collateral damage, I’d make sure that my association with any bad messages would eventually be forgotten. With sufficient passage of time, people generally only remember their feelings and not the facts of conversations.
I’d keep the bad news short and wrap it up with as much positivity as possible. By doing it in person, I would be able to adjust in real-time and ensure that the person hearing the bad news, advice, or rejection actually listened to what was being said.
In industries where there is a lot of distrust, take a page from social psychologist David Yeager. His methodology, which he calls wise feedback, is great for giving feedback across racial divides where there can be enormous distrust. I’ve found it’s especially effective in the worlds of Wall Street and Silicon Valley. His method entails the following: when delivering feedback that might be interpreted negatively, you preface it with the following:
“I’m giving you these comments because I have very high expectations and I know that you can reach them.”
I’ve found this to be an effective way to deliver not only subordinate feedback but also any negative news to my boss. If I missed the budget, I’d make it clear I know their expectations and reassure them that I can achieve them. If that was not possible then I’d try to end the bad news on a positive note!
2. I hate getting negative feedback. How can I be more receptive to it?
As I just said, no one likes to hear negative feedback, especially about themselves. However, bear in mind that it is necessary for personal growth. Much like how we learn more from our failures than our successes, recognize that we learn more from negative feedback rather than pats on the back. Listening to this type of feedback and taking action is the only way we can ultimately improve so you should welcome it rather than run from it.
One last tip on negative feedback: consider the source.
Sometimes the person delivering it may not have your best in mind. For those people, I give you permission to dismiss it as an act of sabotage. However, there are many people who will have the best intentions. I encourage people to look beyond the words and ask yourself if the messenger has a good heart and, if so, listen. It will help you grow and improve.
3. How do I get people to write good things about me?
Third party validation of your achievements and capabilities are gold. Especially in this day and age where many claim to have invented cancer or landed on Mars. Building a repository of recommendations and positive attestations can go a long way in helping your career. As such, you need to take a proactive approach in collecting these praise worthy notes.
If you have done a great job for someone, I’ve found the direct approach to be the best one. Just ask. Make it clear why it can be helpful to your goals and solicit actively. Unless they’re a jerk, people are generally accommodating and see it as small compensation for a job well done.
The bigger challenge is if you have not done a good job. Or have performed below expectations. In this case, if you still want a recommendation from that person, the best approach is to make it clear what’s in it for them. Sometimes it can be as simple as making it clear that you are now indebted to them. They probably will call in that chit at some point so be prepared to reciprocate.
Of course, if you can’t find enough people to write good things about you, perhaps it’s the universe’s way of telling you to focus on the root cause of your lack of good recommendations: you.
Diagnose and fix your own faults before you ask others to wax poetic about you.
About the Author
Dave is a seasoned executive and entrepreneur who founded several companies in entertainment, investments, and technology, and worked on Wall Street for almost 25 years.
He started his career by joining a fledgling investment bank, Jefferies, when it had less than 200 employees. Today, Jefferies is a multi-billion dollar diversified public company (NYSE:JEF). He rose from the entry level position of Analyst to Group Head of Internet and Digital Media and was one of the youngest Managing Directors in firm history. As one of the only managing directors of color in the firm, he successfully broke through the Bamboo Ceiling. He not only worked hard but also played the corporate game.
Hundreds of bankers have worked for Dave during his career. He has mentored many of them who have gone on to some of the best business schools and companies in America. He is eager to share his knowledge with Asian Americans and other disadvantaged groups seeking to maximize their potential and achieve their career goals.