Monday, April 02, 2007

How to Destroy an Ego

It's about follow through. Everything in life is about follow through. Me, I suck at finishing. I come up with ideas, spend a week writing a rough prototype and then drop them.

However, when I drop something, it only affects me. How about this story for some experiential learning?

One of your engineers approaches you, he says, "Hey, I've got some really cool ideas, should I write them down?".

You agree that the engineer should produce the document, and agree a price. The engineer goes away and produces a proposal document over the next two weeks.

What happens next is the interesting bit. What does it say if you, as the customer for this piece of work, don't provide any feedback? It says:

  1. That it wasn't important enough to read.
  2. If it was read, it wasn't even good enough to warrant a "OMG that's CRAP!" response.
  3. That the whole task was about humouring the engineer, and perhaps giving them a bonus without calling it that.
  4. That the ideas themselves have no value.

Of course, from your point of view, you look at this document and think to yourself, "It's 50 pages! That will take 2 hours to read properly. I've got so many reports to write, bid responses to prepare, I'll look at it next week." Before you know it, it's next year and you think that it's too late to respond. Basically, you've proven to the engineer that all of 1,3 and 4 apply.

What's that going to do to their self-worth? It's not a fatal blow, but it will eat away if they let it. It will certainly affect the relationship you have with them, and they will definitely never, ever step forward with more ideas for your organisation.

So, if someone asks for feedback, make sure you provide it. Even if the feedback isn't positive. It's always better to hear something.