Feedback without a License

Wow, what a way to start the year.
I didn’t take my own advice.

Mid way through a recent assignment (an event featuring 5 different talks from the same company), I was told that I offended an executive by what I thought was a simple suggestion.

The suggestion was, “Have you ever recorded yourself?”

I love the recording devices on our phones. I’ve blogged about it here what a powerful Gestalt-like tool they can be for identifying your own problems in your speech, story or talk. You are more likely to correct the mistakes you identify versus those anyone tells you about.

And they are also great timing tools.

Sure you can use a clock, but that doesn’t help you identify where you may have gone long (or short) since you can’t hear yourself back.

His response to me was “I’ve done this a thousand times. I don’t need to record myself.” I just said, “I don’t need to hear it, but you can use it just to make sure your own timing is good.”  After all, there were 5 speakers – if each of them went over 5 minutes, that’s nearly a half hour over their intended timeline. That kind of schedule oversight makes people like me batty, let alone the hundreds of folks in the audience.

So. In looking back, I ask myself: What went wrong?  Was it really my suggestion? Was it the fact that he’s new to the job and doesn’t want to be questioned or appear vulnerable? Was it that I didn’t appreciate the fact he’d done it
“thousands of times?” Was it that he doesn’t like feedback.

Maybe all or some of those applied, but a higher problem emerged.

He really didn’t know who I was.  He didn’t know my story. He didn’t trust my advice or know that I have license to deliver it.

When we first met a few weeks earlier, I was limited to an introduction of this length:

“Hi, I’m Ruth Milligan, and I’m an executive speech coach.”

Anything more would have been frowned upon by the other 15 people in the room who had a big agenda to follow. And it was clear, at this moment of ‘said offense,’ that no one had ever shared with him what my true passion is, how I do it all day every day, how I lead with love and want everyone to reach their potential.

When we were in that script review meeting, it was to review a script (that is a story for another post). So to him, I was a writer.  Or at least, if knew I was a coach, he had no ounce of willingness to be coached by me. I could have been introduced more thoroughly, surely, but the ultimate responsibility is mine.

As I have told my clients and classes for years, if people don’t know who you are, how can they trust you? And if you don’t tell them your story, how will they know the real you?

I was really looking forward to giving this executive some further feedback when the time was right. Sometimes, that time is just not meant to be. I wish him well. And thank him for this reminder that at the heart of my work, my clients have to want the feedback first, no matter how I am introduced.