The other side of feedback

We recently had our butt kicked by one of our clients who said:

“you aren’t providing me with the level of consulting I want and there are two of you”

Ouch that hurt.

Especially since we pride ourselves on being generous, strong on relationships and going above and beyond what is expected.

Well that’s what our clients usually tell us – but not this time.

The tendency to justify

I really wanted to justify why – “we’ve been working on different timelines from you, juggling many clients at once, giving more than most…..” but managed to stop myself and instead pay attention to my own advice;

“Listen…..try and be open and see what you can learn – there’s often something in it”.

So I did.

She cared enough to tell us

Ultimately as a consultant we are there to provide a service for our clients and the clearest form of feedback, if clients aren’t getting what they want, is not getting us back again. A big silence…..

The beauty of long standing relationships

Luckily for us we have developed more than transactional relationships with our clients and with this client in particular, there is a long-standing partnership. I think that’s why she bothered to tell us, and front up for a tricky conversation, rather than let us slip away into consultant no man’s land. We have in the past also helped her navigate difficult situations, like transitioning to her own business and back again. Plus we have a history of working together on impactful programs in a couple of well-loved Australian organisations.

So what insights did we gain? Honestly?

Absorbed in our own reality – I think we were caught up in what we were doing, marching to our own drum, timeframes, not taking time to think from her perspective.

We made some assumptions – that because we had always worked a certain way with her, that that would continue. What we failed to really appreciate was that she was in a new organisation where she’d had to put herself on the line with the CEO to get us in, this was their first leadership program ever and she was therefore being uncharacteristically cautious.

Basic disciplines & your Achilles heel– Kicking ourselves for this…..that we failed to clarify timelines – it’s such a basic discipline. As two fairly creative directors we have certain Achilles heels that need to be managed – partly with us hiring someone who’s good on systems (which we have).

Ho Hum – this one is probably the hardest to admit, but I think we were taking things for granted. There’s nothing like a wake up call to remind us to be grateful for great clients, and not to assume that they will always be there without attention, care and constant improvement.

Leadership Wisdom + Critical Feedback

A challenge for all of us is maintaining an edge as you grow and making sure that you are constantly evolving and still providing clients with what they were attracted to in the first place.

Unfortunately, the higher up you go in leadership, the less likely you are to get useful feedback – unless you consciously create a culture where this is encouraged. Otherwise you will get the behaviour that you reinforce. So, if you encourage “yes men and women”, who only tell you what you want to hear – you may find yourself in a disconnected echo chamber.

Zenger Folkman’s research of more than 51,000 leaders showed that those who ranked in the top 10% of giving and seeking feedback were also ranked in the top 10% in their overall effectiveness as a leader.

If you are open to feedback, you are open to improvement.

Back at Changeable

Pleased to say we did pay attention to our client’s feedback and have worked hard to turn it around. We’ve just received a lovely note saying:

“Thank you both for a great start to the program.

Love working with you both.”



  1. Timothy Slater · · Reply

    Well done, both of you, but really I’d expect nothing less.


    1. thanks Timothy! Good wake up call


  2. Barry John (BJ) Smith · · Reply

    The fact that you have shared this experience, shows your commitment to leadership and learning. A big show of integrity.


    1. thanks Barry! We really try to practice what we preach and not present ourselves as having it all together all the time.


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