What Do Others Think ?

21 Jun 2016

What others think of us can become the focus of our thoughts in quiet moments, at big decision times, when stuff goes wrong and especially when performance review time comes around.

what do others thinkAs so often in our culture we work on the principle that the absence of negative feedback or criticism means we’re doing ok. We often shy away from asking ‘what do they think’. This can be because we’re not sure how to go about it or we’re embarrassed by asking or we think the other person will be embarrassed.

You’re right, you could be embarrassed, they could be embarrassed. And….

The other possibility is that you could be just delighted with what you find out and they could feel honoured that you value their opinion and trust them enough to ask. Here’s one way to go about it.

A senior manager I was working with a few months ago commented that he and his team are so busy getting ‘delivering on a major project’ he really didn’t know how they perceive him. Jim, approaching a cross-roads in his career, wanted something more concrete than the absence of criticism or general acknowledgements; something unique to him.

In the first instance I asked him to write a list of people whose opinions he values. There were 9 on his list. On reflection, he decided to reduce the list to just four colleagues. They had all worked with him for several years and he felt they would be confident to and comfortable with giving him the feedback. He chose three colleagues and one other person who knows him well.

Next, we worked together to come up with just 4 questions. Many more could become onerous for his colleagues and possibly reduce quality of feedback; fewer questions would give too little information.

Jim spoke personally to all four people to explain what his idea was and to ask if they’d take part. All agreed. Had they not, Jim had a couple of others he would approach.

These are the questions he asked.

• What are 3 words that describe how I typically come across to you ?

• What talent would you like to see me using more ?

• What would you most miss about me, if I were away from the business for a while (say for 6 months) ?

• What do you know you can always rely on me for ? (positive and negative)

If this is something you are interested in doing, you may find these questions (or some variation of them) helpful. Before you decide on your final questions, double check they will help you get the information you want.

It’s also worth thinking about whether, after they’ve had time to prepare, you sit down with the person and ask them the questions or you send them the questions on email and they reply in writing – or some combination of the two.

For pragmatic reasons, Jim chose both avenues. One person was overseas and even Skype wasn’t an option in the circumstances. For two of his people, he sat down with them and they shared their thoughts. One person, send answers straight to Jim and they had a chat over lunch one day, as a follow-through.

Finding out ‘what do they think?’ is a powerful way to build and reinforce relationships – and it can be away to discover information not usually accessible. Discussions and interventions such as this can also serve to build trust between you. Connecting in this deeply personal way affects both parties (hopefully positively) and in Jim’s case, massively shifted the depth and quality of their relationship.

Looking back now, Jim recently said others in the department had followed his lead and done this process. He is convinced that the shift in relationships has made a significant difference to the quality of interactions and the team spirit – and this in turn has made the team a better place to work.

Here’s what Sam, a Development Manager said

“It’s amazing how asking a few simple questions of people I’ve worked with for 3 years has opened my eyes to how I come across and how other’s perceive my strengths. I feel more confident in myself now and it’s nice to know I’d be missed if I were away from the business for a while”

Over to you now  Good luck with finding out ‘what other’s think of you.  It may suprise…. and delight you :-)


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