Listening to feedback on your performance can be uncomfortable, but this feedback is essential to growth

Last night I gave a talk at my local Toastmasters club, Thame Speakers.

I filmed last night’s talk and uploaded it to my YouTube Channel as my daily video.

I have recorded my thoughts on progress, challenges, and ambitions every day this year as a way to keep me focused on my goal of becoming established as a motivational wellbeing speaker.

The talk itself was on a subject I’ve been writing and speaking about a great deal lately: how to do more of the things we already know we should be doing.

Toastmasters talks are generally only 5-7 minutes long, so part of the challenge is to produce a presentation that has a beginning, middle and end, and still delivers something of value.

I focused my attention on one aspect of the mindset seminar I’m giving in Thame next month: how to connect the WHAT to the WHY.


At a Toastmasters club meeting, each speaker has a ‘personal evaluator’, who makes notes during the speech and then gets up later on to deliver their feedback.

It’s proved to be an immensely powerful system for learning, and I have both received and given dozens of evaluations over the last 9 years I’ve been a member.

But that doesn’t make it any more comfortable!

Reflecting back what you already know

Having somebody reflect back what you already know, yet haven’t wanted to admit to yourself, is tough.

You thought you were getting away with it… that nobody was noticing… then you realise you were wrong.

The problem with not admitting faults and limitations to yourself is that you can’t do anything about them.

But when it’s articulated by another person in a way that is empty of judgement and full of support, no matter how uncomfortable it may feel it can now be addressed.

Points for me to work on

As it turned out, the evaluation from this particular talk didn’t make especially uncomfortable listening.

The main points for improvement were:

1)  There was a lot in there for a short talk; strip out some of the detail

2)  Use additional rhetorical questions to the one I used at the start, to keep the audience involved in the talk

3)  Include one or two more examples to help the audience put everything into context

Learning and growing

If you’re going to endure the discomfort of listening to feedback you owe it to yourself to act upon it.

The purpose of this particular project is for me to do just that.

Having delivered the speech and listened to the feedback from my evaluator, I now need to repeat the presentation at a later date and incorporate the suggestions.

Upon which I will be evaluated again, and no doubt receive more suggestions for more improvements!


Toastmasters is great for evaluations but there’s a huge amount to be gained from self-evaluation as well.

Every time I finish a talk, whether that be here at Toastmasters, at a company, in a school or anywhere else, I spend a few minutes reflecting on it.

I try to come up with 1 or 2 things that I felt went well, and a couple of things that I might have improved on.

3 of the things I came up with for this talk were these:

1) Vary my hand gestures more

2) Move more purposefully, spending more time ‘on the spot’

3) Slow down and pause more after main points

Feedback in ‘real life’

Toastmasters is an organisation set up to help members grow through constructive, honest and supportive feedback.

But where do you get that in other areas of your life?

Most of us don’t go around telling people what we really think in case it hurts their feelings.

If somebody hasn’t actively sought critical feedback and (crucially) is ready to take it on board as an opportunity for growth (think: ‘does my bum look big in this?’!), honesty isn’t always the best policy!

So if we want useful and truthful evaluations on how we’re performing in specific areas of our lives, we have to ask in the right way.

Honest people

My friend Gerry Duffy talks about having 5 different types of people in your life, with one of them being somebody who will always tell you the truth.

Usually this person has to be somebody you believe has an educated opinion; somebody you respect and trust in their judgement.

Even they won’t usually just blurt out what you need to hear.

Here are three checks to put in place to get the most out of your honest friend feedback:

1) Give them permission to be honest with you, making it clear that they are giving you feedback on your performance and not you as a person.

2) Be ready to ask questions so that you have clarity on what they mean by what they say

3) Make sure that you are feeling robust enough to separate the INFORMATION from the EMOTION.

If you’re feeling a little vulnerable or fragile, having somebody ‘be totally honest with you’ might not be the best thing for your state of mind no matter how much of a growth opportunity it is!

Thame Seminar

We’ll be digging deeper into the subject covered in the video at the Thame ‘Knowing To Doing’ mindset seminar on September 27.

Check out this short post for more information and other details including how to book a ticket.