“But you were always entrepreneurial!” That one small piece of feedback from a friend not seen for over 30 years provided a deep reflection opportunity.
· How is it that others can see things in us that we ourselves can’t?
· How can we cater for the ramifications of this reality in business?
Perception is reality and successful businesses appreciate its importance. Perception lies in the eye of the beholder, be that a stakeholder, customer, colleague or team member. Whatever is perceived by another is ‘truth’ and needs to be communicated regardless of the impact it will have. Then and only then can informed decisions be made for continuous improvement.
Business owners will benefit from drilling deeply into the following three simple tips:
· Earn feedback
· Receive feedback
· Provide feedback
Customers will feel differently about the topic of feedback. Some choose to believe it will be used, others not. The former then debate if it will be used for positive purposes or retribution. And if for retribution, will it come back to haunt forever more?
Opinions fade and willingness to share increases when a business actively embeds its belief in feedback into systemic approaches. Ultimately, embedded feedback practices will earn a business the right to receive feedback.
Reflect to discover:
· where processes can have additional questions or feedback touch points embedded in a personal or automated method
· the priority you have to hearing about the tangibles (ie product delivery) and intangibles (ie loyalty practices) of your business approach
· the degree of ease your feedback system provides. Why would anyone provide feedback if it’s just too hard or takes too long – earn their attention!
Seek feedback always, yet understand it will most often be given only when earned. Asking does not guarantee it will be given.
Additional sources of feedback exist other than those proactively sought. This sometimes may be referred to as unsolicited feedback and may not be from a source, in a format or at a time you requested, yet is easily missed or discounted if all eyes, ears and sense are not open to it.
Business is a body of interactions and hence will attract attention and opinions at all times. Observe:
· each and every customer and supplier – do they communicate to you explicitly or otherwise? Are they hanging up mid sentence? A customer’s body language, referrals and shopping habits speak volumes.
· a competitor’s approach – are they mirroring you, referring to you, benchmarking against you, speaking about you?
· the media and press – how often is your business sought after for input or opinions and welcomed as a trusted source of credible information and practice?
Offering constructive feedback willingly begins a dialogue bound to blossom over time. Healthy dialogue builds trust and when feedback serves a positive outcome, it will be appreciated. Pay compliments when they are deserved, publicly and privately. Detail gaps from your own experience that are easily discussed. Refer competitors when industry expertise is sought – they’ll be surprised when they find out you are willing to help.
The reality is that we will not always see our businesses as others do – our eyes are clouded and not impartial. Another reality is that the way others see your business will carry more weight – the purchasing decisions are in their pockets. A balanced knowledge bank about a business, researched from both internal and external sources, will not only keep a business informed and alert but also perceived as a true partner of the business relationship.
Debbie Nicol is the MD of ‘business en motion’ a Dubai-based business consultancy and learning organisation operating in the GCC and Asia.