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Breaking through “I want somebody to tell me…”


I am working with a very capable client who has huge potential but repeatedly states that they have (unknown to them) weaknesses and want someone else to tell them what they are so that they can 'fix' them - even after highly praiseworthy 360 feedback (which was not belileved because it was so positive!). My perception is that the client is VERY capable and basically lacks self-belief.
I have tried most of the tricks in MY book to break through this perception. Has any one got any bright ideas to try to break the mould?
Geoff Roberts

4 Responses

  1. Breathrough
    We doubt that the fear of failure, and this repeated disbelief in the positive is certainly a form of that fear, is solely resolvable by presenting facts to support the strengths of the business.

    Find out what areas they feel they are weak in, if they cannot provide supporting evidence, probe as to what makes them believe in their weaknesses and find out the unknown fear of a percieved threat.

    If this is a group thinking in the same way then get group and individual feedback to get to the root of the fear. The questions need to be to elicit info on how they judge strength and weakness and how they view their own business and why. So you may judge the business on a 5 start performance but they need to see it as only three to have something to work towards.

    Also you mention that this business has great potential, do they (the owners) actually want to realise that potential or is it not their goal? If they need a goal then perhaps development of the potential is a weakness as it has not yet happened and their lack of trust in their own ability is also a key development point!

    A lot of businesses love the path but do not always enjoy the destination and they seek to start up again because that is where the challenges lie. Perhaps you may support them in sale of this business and assist them in developing another.

    Our suspicion is there is no ‘fix’ as nothing is broken but by showing a weak area or two it would provide a focus for those individuals to work on and create a challenge.

    There are loads of less damaging ways to achieve this without testing their own good business to destruction!

    Best of luck.

    Training by Design Global Ltd
    0870 241 3998

  2. Breaking through
    Hi Geoff,

    Perhaps some psychology may be required here! It would appear to me, on the face of it, that the issue is not of belief in one’s ability (or collectively) but that of trust and confidence in processes. The solution could be very simple – by just offering a second opinion.

    Without knowing the nature of the individuals or the type of business, assumptions must be made here.

    I would suspect that you are dealing with an organisation, but ultimately the decision maker(s). So why did they require your services? It could be that everything appears to be in order, but something is not quite right. If you feel that no changes are necessary, your client may feel that you have not identified their perceived problem.

    If you are dealing with people of high intelligence, and perhaps of an analytical nature, it will be difficult to convince them that everything is in order. Consider your own reactions to praise from past clients. Did you honestly believe them, or did you feel that you could have done a better job, given more resources? I feel it is the nature of he beast, to question one’s abilities. Due to the nature of our activities, we constantly strive to excel. Do any of us actually believe that we could not improve ourselves? So perhaps some empathy with your client is justified! However, success is a great confidence builder.

    I have some misgivings myself regarding 360 feedback systems. I recently heard of one instance where there was no anonymity and not surprisingly this had a very negative effect. The obvious downside of such a process is the fear of retribution. Perhaps your client feels that people are being too nice, as opposed to being honest and frank.

    I believe that you have possibly identified the answer to your question in one word – potential. If you discuss your client’s past success and perhaps offer some guidance and opinions, as to how much more could have been achieved, this may be what your client is looking for. Discuss the merits of the processes employed by the client, such as 360, customer feedback and roadmaps. Above all, I would suggest a detailed report highlighting areas for improvement. It should be used to outline areas of demonstrable success together with areas in need of improvement. If you were to identify just a few areas of the latter, this would boost confidence, whilst focusing on something to improve!

    I hope this helps. I am always happy to discuss further, should you wish.

    Kind regards,


  3. Breaking Through
    Hi Geoff,
    Maybe your client would change their perception on the importance of addressing weaknesses if they were to look at the excellent ‘Now Discover Your Strengths’ book by Marcus Buckingham & Donald Clifton – available from Amazon. This is built around the Gallup research which indicates that all of us posess a unique combination of strengths and that once identified (by the FOC ‘Strengthsfinder’internet profile which comes with the book), real future success comes not from focusing on weaknesses but capitalising on our strengths.

    I’m working on the ‘Strengths concept’ with one of my clients with some amazing results.

    Mark Rose
    Tel:01525 714230

  4. No Feedback, Only Failure !
    Sometimes people will not give feedback that is seen as negative. Sometimes they only give negative feedback. Often the culture drives it.

    Without knowing your client’s attitude to honest feedback, given for the benefit of the receiver and organisation, it’s difficult to know their driver for the behaviour you are observing.

    They may not be doing much wrong, but they will certainly be doing things that can be improved. Moving them towards a culture of ‘No Failure, Only Feedback’, may get them to observe accurately and feedback effectively.

    My experience is the higher you move up the company, the less there is feedback, except for the cursory well done, or an angry outburst of blame.

    Good luck.


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