Last night I accidentally had dinner with an old college friend. It was one of those fun chance meetings which quickly leads to a run down of every mutual acquaintance and what they are up to. He shared a story that got me thinking about feedback, and my responsibility to give it.
The Story of Missed Feedback
He began, ” and Joe (not his real name) is a convicted felon.”
“What! Story, please.”
Joe is a bright, talented guy who quickly became a successful businessman. My interpretation of the story is that his white-collar crime was not an oversight or an accident, but a substantial breach of integrity motivated by greed and vengeance.
I looked at my friend, “I am embarrassed and sad to say, that I’m not shocked.”
So why wasn’t I startled by this news? In my interactions with Joe there were times when things just didn’t feel right in the way he treated his relationships or stories that just didn’t stick together. At this point, the details are fuzzy, but I do remember thinking, “I should give him some feedback.”
I never did.
Why hadn’t I?
Was I afraid? Worried it “wasn’t my place?” Worried I would lose the friendship?
What if I had?
What if others had in the 20 years between then and now?
What if friends and colleagues had called this leopard’s’ spots as they saw them emerge-when the stakes were low. What if he had more ticked off people calling his bluff along the way? Would he have failed sooner and softer? Or, perhaps they did. I will never know.
What is our responsibility to give feedback and hold up mirrors for our friends early in the game?