How honest is the advice you’re receiving? Or perhaps you can’t handle the truth? (Also you might need to do a course on this stuff!)
I’m currently participating in B-School, Marie Forleo’s 8 week program to help you learn how to operate a business online, and particularly, a business with heart and purpose that you want to change the world with. One of the early exercises we had to do was ask 25 people via email what our 3 best qualities are. (Cue awkward and nervous laughter).
So, I put together an anonymous survey, and messaged 25 friends from various networks to ask if they could provide me with their answers.
Now (as an aside), if you’re ever feeling down about yourself and where you’re at, I can highly recommend undertaking this exercise. It was a really beautiful, affirming gift for me to see my friend’s answers. Some were surprising, including the most popular quality listed in the answers I received. What was it?
My most popular best quality? Honesty.
I am an honest person – more because I can’t help myself. I don’t have a poker face, so I can never hide what I’m thinking. I am really passionate about what I believe in, so I express thoughts and feelings about those things. And I’ve often thought it was unwelcomed, too annoying and confronting for people.
I’ve actually been using a strategy with some of my client interactions to prepare them for it … it goes something like this …
“Just so you’re aware … I may ask questions or say things that sound quite blunt or brash, or straight-forward. I don’t have much of a poker face. I don’t mean to be offensive and I apologise now if that’s how it comes across. It’s because I’m passionate about creating well-designed environments, and about you getting the best outcome for your home and your investment, and really understanding your vision and dreams for your home.”
Just so they’re prepared for what it’s like to work with me!
Because nobody wants someone around who tells it like it really is, do they? Well, that’s what I thought – until this B-School exercise.
So Honesty is one of my best qualities then? People actually like it?
This turned things completely on their head for me. To a certain extent, it was quite liberating. Now, I haven’t taken it as a sign to go forward, all guns blazing, into telling people exactly what I think at any moment of the day.
I do think, though, that a lot of people will tell you what they think you want to hear. I know it annoys me – I just want to know what I need to, so I can then figure out how to deal with it / overcome it / change it.
So, this exercise has given me some insight into the value in helping people in a way that doesn’t seek to sugar-coat things, that is honest and truthful, and gives them a real framework for expectations and how to navigate it. And then empowering them with what they need to feel informed and confidant to take that journey with eyes wide open.
Honesty in action
So with this newfound ownership of “honesty” as a positive trait to possess, how have things panned out?
Well, this week certainly put it into light for me. I have been helping some dear friends with some work they’re planning for their home. They have a 3 bedroom, single storey brick house … built by AV Jennings in the 1980s, so that should give you a picture. Seeking an extra bathroom, they’ve seen it as an opportunity to add a master bedroom with ensuite and walk-in-robe in the space available on the end of the house, and also incorporate some much-needed linen space.
It’s a small job, with a tight budget, and their friend (who is a builder) will build it for them. To keep things cost-effective, they’re using a draftsperson, and I’ve been been acting as a sounding board (at no charge), doing the odd sketch and providing feedback along the way.
You see, the thing I struggle with mainly, is ensuring my honesty comes from a place of love, rather than a place of judgement. Sound a bit woo woo? Well, if I’m telling people that they ‘should’ do things a certain way because “I know better”, it’s meddling. I instead seek to share my knowledge with the hope and intention it illuminates a way forward for them – but with no obligation. It’s a fine line to dance, and one I can and do clumsily stomp all over. Tell me to get back in my box if I ever move from sharing to meddling, OK?
Their development of the project has been taking some time. When I received the last round of markups which included another option and request for feedback, I realised what was going on. And so I sent an email to my friend … with my apology/inoculation statement to begin …
I then provided feedback on the design, and the additional options sent. What I was really curious about, though, was the level of deliberation occurring in determining a suitable design and moving ahead. This was a fairly simple project, and yes – it’s a tight budget, and the first time they’ve done it, so I can understand it taking some time … however, what was going on looked like waivering and indecision, not development and progress. So I wrote this:
In my experience, deciding on this design should not be taking this long … which makes me think the following:
- you are not being guided properly by the draftsperson – which is to do with them and their abilities, how you are briefing them, how you are working with them, and what you are paying them (see point 2)
- you are not trusting the advice you are given – and I believe that is partly to do with what you’re paying for it – it changes the skin you have in the game (or the skin you don’t have in the game!) which then changes how you act on the advice
- you are nervous about getting it right, and disagreeing with each other on what is the best outcome (which then goes to point 1 and point 2)
- you are not keeping yourselves accountable to achieving a resolution and moving forward (which goes to point 1, 2 and 3).
I understand that you don’t do this everyday, and this is a big investment, and something you feel is very important and will add value to the house, and your lives in it. I understand that you want to get it right, and may be challenged by understanding what the sizes will look and feel like, and how they’ll work with the light and overall function.
Please do me a favour … This weekend – buy some stakes from Bunnings and some builder’s string, and mark it out at 1:1 – or buy some spray paint and spray the outline of the rooms on the ground (yes I know the levels change, but you can still do this, just think of it all as flat – it will still give you the impression you need). See how the spaces feel, and where the light moves across them in a day. See how much room you’ll have to hang clothes. Draw your bed in the room. Please do this.
Sounds harsh doesn’t it? I read it and re-read it so many times before I sent it, and was super nervous about how it would land at the other end.
I received an email shortly after which started “Thank you for your honesty”!
Now, the friend could have just been sugar-coating her reaction – that is true. I’m hoping she was truly grateful 🙂
I do think that the amount you pay for the advice you seek certainly changes the way you follow and act on that advice …
I don’t think this means that the best advice is the most expensive, or that it gives everyone an excuse to jack up their fees (me included). I think though, that when you pay people for the value they bring to the table in their expertise, experience and knowledge – the price generally increases the more they demonstrate their ability to do exactly that, and bring enormous value to your project.
This value isn’t just in monetary worth, or returns on investment … but also in peace of mind that you’re getting the right type of guidance and advice for you.
Of course, there are always exceptions to this rule – those sharks out there ripping people off under the guise of being prestigious and valuable and exclusive. Or people who are just crappy at their jobs.
And sometimes, you’re doing everything you can budget for and afford, so it’s super hard to think about paying more for ‘better’ advice, when you’re stretching yourself to pay what you are.
That’s not what this is about … this is about your approach and attitude to the advice you ARE paying for.
When you get low quotes for work, I think you are excited that it fits in your budget, but also mistrustful as to whether it’s going to do what it promises … especially when you know that the same ‘type’ (not ‘quality’) of work is available for the same job at a higher cost.
When you put more skin in the game … that is, when you invest more money and time in the advice you are seeking, then you do greater due diligence BEFORE you commission it, and you create great accountability around both their performance and your own.
You make sure you don’t waste time. You create a specific brief. You understand what your obligations are in the process as much as theirs. And you keep yourself involved in the process, measuring and checking their performance.
Well, that’s what I do anyway, and what I expect from my clients who invest their time and money with the services I provide. I am accountable to them to deliver and exceed their expectations in value added and service provided. I expect them to hold me accountable to it. And I hold them accountable for staying involved, and for paying my invoices 😉
Am I being too single-minded about this? I’d love to hear your thoughts from you if you think that. There’s always a chance I’m clumping that fine line.
I just know from experience (on both sides of the equation when buying or selling something available with quite a large price-range), that the more you spend on it:
the greater expectation you have of it (so you invest more of you in it)
the more you trust the process and guidance you are given and act on it
And if the person you are trusting is proving their worth in being trusted with these expectations and your faith in them, then things do go smoothly. And if they say “Just trust me” without demonstrating to you why you should, then ask them why.
So how much skin do you have in the game of creating your home? It’s not really a game is it? It’s actually a very important process, and your role is also important. You are the financier, the CEO, and the end-user. So like you would when any important job needs to be done … hire others where you have skill gaps (or learn how to do it yourself), do your research, and consider value added over expense paid.
But … but … but …
Sure, it may be the first time you do it, but I bet you’ve had lots of “firsts” in your life. How did you tackle those?
Do you find making decisions difficult? Well, you make decisions every day, from what you’ll eat for brekkie to how you’ll do your job at work, to how you’ll parent your kids. How do you tackle those?
The framework is the same. This is an input and output exercise that involves an exchange of value and information in the midst of it.
Carefully and intentionally choose:
- who you exchange that value with or seek it from,
- what and who you are informed by,
- so then you know the input you get can be trusted (and that you WILL trust it),
- and the output you’ll create will be great.
And that’s my honest advice. Said with love 🙂
PS my other qualities were varied but included “passion”, “driven”, “understanding”, “generous”, “empathetic” and one I think I’ll need to send this blog out into the world … “brave”.