Candor in today’s business world is not only important, but also needed in order to build trust and help nurture relationships. And in industries where companies are regularly competing for business, honest, forthright feedback is not only needed, but also greatly appreciated.
A/E/C industry serves as a role model for candid feedback
Years ago, I picked up a nugget of wisdom—and it’s all about candor and honest feedback. We do a fair amount of work in the Architecture, Engineering and Construction (A/E/C) industry and in my opinion they are the gold standard for how to effectively communicate during the post-selection RFP/RFQ process.
In this industry, proposals are the start of most projects—a great deal of time is usually spent by the competing firms to put together information on their qualifications, their processes and methodologies, details on time schedules and estimates for completing the work. Hopefully you get short listed to present in-person and ultimately awarded the job. But we all know only one firm wins.
So how do the owners handle it once a selection is made? The practice that we normally see is complete transparency. The competing firms are usually allowed a complete download on who “won” and why. Everyone walks away with more knowledge on how to do the job better the next time. And the process starts all over again. Sounds simple, doesn’t it?
Feedback, especially honest feedback, is rare
That’s not always the way it happens in other industries, including mine. We have often spent weeks, even a month or more, putting together detailed proposals or preparing for in-person presentations. This isn’t a complaint—we put in the effort to pursue assignments because we are genuinely excited about the opportunity and believe we can make a difference for the company.
When we win, it’s a high-five day at the office. And when we don’t, our first question is: what could we have done differently? How can we improve? Unfortunately, the answer on occasion is silence from the other end or an after hours voicemail saying thanks, but no thanks. Honest feedback can be hard to come by. Perhaps you’ve experienced the same situation in your own industry and can relate.
Candor can be hard to swallow, but always appreciated
But what if it were different? Imagine receiving a call thanking you for your time and explaining the final decision. While it may be hard for some people to be that candid, I can assure you that it is genuinely appreciated on the other end. The best way that we can grow and improve is through this sort of feedback.
Nancy Eberhardt, an executive business coach and consultant, has written a book called Uncommon Candor and maintains a blog on the importance of candor. In one post, she mentions how Stephen Covey, author of The SPEED of Trust: The One Thing that Changes Everything, spoke to a group of 600 mid-market business leaders and stated, “Be honest, tell the truth, and let people know where you stand. Use simple language. Call things what they are. Demonstrate integrity. Don’t manipulate people or distort facts. Don’t spin the truth. Don’t leave false impressions.”
Your company’s brand is more than an image
There’s also another side to consider. Remember that your brand is more than your company’s image; it’s also about the experience people have when they interact with your firm. This includes potential vendors or business partners—their experience with your company during the sales process creates a brand impression in the marketplace. Owners and managers should remember to take note of the brand messages being generated at every level of their company—from your receptionist to your sales team, from a seasoned employee to a newbie.
It all matters, so make it your job to understand ways in which you might be putting your brand in jeopardy. Be candid, communicate and enjoy the power that comes with treating everyone with mutual respect.