The Last 10 Percent: How Thorough Feedback Changes Lives

Ever held back your criticism during a crucial conversation? Maybe someone asked for feedback on a project, paper, or presentation, and you had reservations you didn’t feel comfortable sharing.

You may have given 90 percent of your opinion, but withheld “the last 10 percent”.

So what’s the big deal? Sharing 90 percent should be sufficient, right? Well, it turns out the last 10 percent could make the difference in their success or failure.

Sharing feedback is tough. But, the ability to share and receive the last 10 percent transforms us into our most authentic selves.

Here’s how the last 10 percent recently made a difference in my life:

The Madman in the Stands

Let me introduce you to my life coach, a.k.a., my wife. She’s been my coach for over 43 years! She’s my fiercest critic, my most loyal friend, and a sharer of the last 10 percent.

We were driving to one of my grandson’s basketball games not long ago when she leaned over and said, “Can I give you some feedback?”

“Sure!” I replied.

She hesitated, then said, “I’m a little concerned.”

“Oh please! It’s safe.”

She hesitated again, finally saying, “Are you aware of how you’re interacting with the officials at your grandson’s basketball games?

“I’ve made a few comments, but nothing…”

“You’ve made more than a few comments.”

I continued to drive, not saying anything.

After a while, she leaned in and asked, “Have we gone to ‘silence’?”  She’d obviously remembered her Crucial Conversations Training.

“Yes… but this is challenging for me,” I stumbled. “Who said something to you?”

“Your daughter.”

As we continued to talk, we ultimately came to the last 10 percent.

She said, “Do you want your grandchildren to cringe when they see you come to their games?”

That last question had a profound effect on me.

The 10 Percent Difference

See, I pride myself on sportsmanship. A few years ago, I coached a basketball team to study Sport and Moral Reasoning for my doctoral dissertation. Everyone who played on our team took a class from me. We even implemented a sportsperson’s code: No team member could speak to an official during the game. It was a code of mutual respect.

I’d violated the very code I stood for. And as Albert Bandura so artfully says, “It’s not that I was immoral but that I was in moral slumber.” When my wife shared this feedback, she awoke me from my moral slumber.

For the remaining six games of my grandson’s season, I did great (except once  — but I caught myself and pulled back). The last game of the season, we played a tense home game. At one point, an official made a tough call and two parents immediately leapt to their feet. In their anger, they stepped out on the court. At the next timeout, the athletic director came over,

had a discussion with the parents, and escorted them out of the gym.

I looked at my wife with an expression that said, “See! That wasn’t me!” And I hadn’t even been tempted. Why? She had shared the last 10 percent and anchored it to one of my deep beliefs. It changed me.

How to Share and Receive the Last 10 Percent of Feedback

Henry Cloud tells us, “It is a paradox of life that the less we look at our shortcomings, the more others do.”

Here’s my challenge to you:

1. Look for someone who needs your feedback.

2. Seek feedback from someone else.

First, ask yourself, “From whom am I withholding the last 10 percent? Am I withholding their future?” Then, consider how to make your environment safe enough to share this information and profoundly impact their lives.

Then, challenge yourself to become vulnerable enough to ask your boss, “What’s it like to work with me?” Or to ask your spouse, “What’s it like living with me?”

Who do you need to talk with? Who do you need to listen to?

Sharing feedback is about having authentic relationships. When we aren’t talking about real issues, we don’t have authentic relationships.

When you seek, get, and use feedback, you become an authentic person with authentic relationships who reaps authentic results.

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