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“Take those boots off!” Important Lessons Learned By Leaders Feedback

Take Your Boots Off! Important Leader Feedback

A Leaders Feedback Can Be Invaluable

It was nearly 3 years into my young information technology career when my supervisor called me into his office to conduct my annual performance review.

My parents had bought me a pair of cinnamon python boots for Christmas that year. I wore them proudly with my dark brown western tailored suit. Of course, I wore a white pearl button shirt, 24-carat gold collar tips, leather belt with a huge buckle and a “wild turkey” bolo tie. Unbelievably my parents still have a picture of me hanging in their den wearing this “get-up.”

That gift acted as a springboard for me to become a “western wear junkie.” I guess you can have too much of a good thing. Anyways, as I made my way into my supervisor’s office, I sat down in a comfortable chair opposite his desk so we could view each other face to face. He proceeded to go through my annual review. In general things were positive and very upbeat.

After thirty to forty minutes, I was feeling proud of myself. But I should have remembered that “pride cometh before the fall.”

As he was bringing the session to closure, he looked at me eye to eye and said, “Mark, before we go, I really need to cover an additional item with you.” I slumped back into my chair wondering if he was going to give me a promotion or a pay raises. Well, it was neither!

He continued, “Mark, as we just discussed per this review you have a bright future.” He then took a long breath and continued: “But Mark, you will never get there unless you take those boots off! To be successful in this business you have to dress for it. Please get a pair of black wing tips and dress for success.”

I do not even remember what else happened that day. Later that evening, my wife could tell that I was upset about something. As you can imagine we sat down for the next hour or so and discussed my appraisal session at length.

Long story short, our discussion came down to my decision if I was going to heed the message or gamble against the odds to succeed in my career. Everyone eventually has to make tough career decisions. Moreover, I know from experience these types of decisions are NOT easy. In my case, I loved being a “Cowboy!”

Erika promised that evening, and she has since kept her promise, to lay out my clothes each morning to help me make the switch to a more appropriate attire for my chosen career. My part of the bargain was to put them on without complaint and go to work and do my job well!

I look back now after nearly 30 years at this situation. Here’s what I learned:

1)  My supervisor was a great person for having the fortitude to tell a “young buck” what he needed to hear.

2) I learned that not all feedback is enjoyable but it is of value.

3) I learned that making decisions to improve are not always fun but they are necessary.

4) And making the right decisions do lead to right results.

By the way, now that I am retired, I am looking forward to a trip to my favorite Western Store to buy me a new pair of boots.

Question: Why is it so difficult to tell the truth as a leader? How important is a leaders feedback to you? Would love to hear your comments below.

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